ndia and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties. The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia has been improving steadily. The recent trends in Indo-Saudi relations have reiterated the relevance of the partnership that has broadened in scope covering economic, security, defense, strategic and political spheres.
Significance of India- Saudi Arabia relations
- Economic ties: India is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trade partner; Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in FY 2022-23 was valued at $52.76 billion. Trade with Saudi Arabia accounted for 4.53% of India’s total trade in FY23.
- Energy Cooperation: Saudi Arabia is a key partner for ensuring India’s energy security, and was its third largest crude and petroleum products source for FY23.
- Defence Partnership: Both sides cooperate closely in the domain of defence industries and capacity-building. There is extensive naval cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia through bilateral naval exercise Al Mohed al Hindi.
- Indian Diaspora: There are over 2.8 million Indian expatriates gainfully employed in the Kingdom who send valuable foreign exchange remittances and are also respected for its contribution to the development of Saudi Arabia. They are seen as a living bridge between the two countries.
- Denunciation of Terrorism: One of the reasons for the two countries coming closer has been the increasing concern about growing extremism and terrorism. The effort to collectively fight terrorism has extended at the bilateral level as the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to combat terrorism.
- Strategic Significance of Indo-Saudi Relations: The stability and security of the Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent are closely interlinked. From an Indian perspective, the main challenges to regional stability include the ongoing civil war in Syria, US-Iran hostility and the Palestine issue. Such developments have given space for the formation of positive relations between India and Saudi Arabia.
The following avenues are crucial to strengthen the relations although there are many prospective areas:
- People-To-People Contact: Saudi Arabia is one of the countries with a large number of Indian expatriates who need to further convert their presence as an asset. For instance, the trajectory of the entertainment sector is also a potential means of tourism given the fact that today Saudi Arabia is focusing on tapping the potentials of both these sectors. For example Malayalam film industry, for instance, could prove to be an asset in a Kerala dominated Diaspora in Saudi Arabia.
- Preparing the Next Generation: As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to transform life and work, both India and Saudi Arabia may place strong emphasis on mobilising the youth as cooperation in the youth sector plays an important role in the development of bilateral relations.
- Enhancing Cultural engagement: Cultural exchanges and interaction should continue to be the focus area of strengthening the bilateral relations between the two countries. Cultural engagement such as promoting yoga gives the much needed visibility to the bilateral engagement between the two countries.
Over the span of a mere decade, the India-Saudi Arabia relationship has been transformed from a transactional relationship to a strategic partnership. The two countries should also address some of the issues that are likely to impact the partnership such as the grievances of the Indian Diaspora. The task ahead for the countries is to put into action the promising agreements signed between the two countries and taking stock of them from time to time for effective outcomes.