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Closer Saudi-Indian ties essential for Asia’s rise

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – AFP file
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – AFP file
19 Feb 2019 04:02:37 GMT9
19 Feb 2019 04:02:37 GMT9

A few days ago, we ran an interview in this newspaper with Parag Khanna, the author of a recently published book called “The Future Is Asian.” He described in fascinating detail how the new world could be led by Asia. It goes without saying that India and Saudi Arabia can occupy central roles in this “Asia First” doctrine — especially if they work closely together.

What makes these two countries unusual is the fact that both have robust economies and very aspirational young populations, both are supremely aware of their strategic importance in their respective regions, and more importantly, both are members of the G20.

It seems that the leaderships in both countries understand this massive opportunity. We saw this on full display, first when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016, and on Tuesday night when he broke protocol and personally received Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in New Delhi.

The visit is an attempt to reinforce a relationship that is old, historic, and has been nurtured carefully over eight decades. Riyadh views India as one of the most important countries in Asia, and as the world’s seventh-largest economy. There are many areas where Saudi Arabia and India can work together.

“Riyadh views India as one of the most important countries in Asia.”

Faisal J. Abbas 

The ties between these two proud nations are anchored in economics, commerce and culture. Riyadh provided New Delhi pride of place last year at its most famous cultural jamboree: The Janadriyah Festival.

Indians are among the largest expat communities in Saudi Arabia. They enjoy respect for their services in different sectors and industries. Their presence has been beneficial for both countries. While Saudi Arabia has gained immensely from India’s expertise in different fields, the latter has received valuable foreign exchange from its diaspora in the Kingdom. It has thus been a win-win relationship.

The crown prince’s visit is highly significant. It is time for officials in both countries to seize the momentum and coordinate their positions on both financial and political issues. They need to synchronize their policies on the international stage — at the World Bank, for example.

India is one of the most important markets for Saudi Arabia, especially when it comes to oil and energy supplies. The Kingdom is an integral part of India’s energy security plan, and increased Saudi investments in India through Saudi Aramco are proof of these commitments.

The visit is also an opportunity to look at cooperation in industrial manufacturing. As part of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan, the Kingdom has decided to begin its own military manufacturing.

One hopes to see a cooperation council being formed between the two countries which would create sustainable growth in the bilateral relationship. It is important to realize that if they work together, they can produce good for themselves and for the whole continent, just as Parag Khanna envisaged in his book.

  • Faisal J. Abbas is the editor-in-chief of Arab News Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
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