Saudi Arabia will play a crucial role in India's growth story, said Professor P R Kumaraswamy who teaches West Asian studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was speaking at the launch of "India's Saudi Policy: Bridge to the Future", a book which he co-authored with Muddassir Quamar, an Associate Fellow in the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, who gave the keynote lecture, observed that in the changing geopolitics of the world, Saudi Arabia will be a country that India will have to balance along with Iran and Israel.
The book traces India's Saudi policy and locates the current state of bilateral relations and the challenges it faces. along with chapters on migration and the Palestine and Pakistan factors. It has also addressed factors like economy, energy, security, trade and history, and where things went wrong.
It argues that during the Cold War, the relations were largely shaped by the Pakistan factor which in turn inhibited both sides from exploring the importance and value of one another. As a result, the relations were at best transactional and marginal.
Answering a question, Prof Kumaraswamy observed that India is now a regionally strong power and is capable of being on equal footing with a nation like Saudi Arabia.
The author also pointed out that for long the large expatiate population and Haj have been the backbone of the social relations, and there have been new instruments as India looks to enhance its engagements with Saudi Arabia through investments opportunities, political contacts, shared security concerns and strategic cooperation.Talking about the challenges, he said, the regional instability, the Iran factor, low oil price and the international dynamics will play a major role in defining the bilateral relations.
"The end of the Cold War coincided with two interesting developments, namely, significant growth in India's economic power and influence and the de-hyphenation of Pakistan from its Middle East policy. This resulted in greater political engagements between India and Saudi Arabia and was strengthened by the growing energy trade ties," says the book's introduction.
The book assumes importance in the context of the high-profile visit expected next month from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and the inauguration of the new Saudi Embassy building complex in New Delhi. India-Saudi ties have been on an upswing in recent years, with high-level visits on both sides, and the scale and spectrum of the relations now cover from political to cultural, business to technology, energy to education. There are an estimated three million Indians in Saudi Arabia - one of the largest diasporas that India has in any country - with the embassy and its consulate Mumbai issuing over a million visas last year. Four more Saudi consulates are expected in India in the coming years.