MBS’s India visit strengthens ties

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (MBS), will be leading a large delegation in his tour to five Asian nations: Pakistan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India.

India is of special interest to the Saudi kingdom. In 2006, the two countries signed the Delhi Declaration which was a turning point in the bilateral relationship between the Saudi kingdom and India. Since then there have been more investments, economic, military, security, and arms deals, only to be upgraded with the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince.

With the tie upgraded to a strategic partnership, Saudi investment in India has increased in many sectors like IT, housing, tourism, infrastructures, and energy. Saudi Arabia is India’s 4th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $28 billion (2019) and will double in the coming decades. Under Prime Minister Modi, the relationship with GCC strengthened with multiple visits to these countries including Saudi Arabia in 2016.

Three major areas of interests remain the pillars of Indo-Saudi relationship which are: Indian expats, oil supply and the Hajj quota that accounts for 1.7 million pilgrims annually. The Indian Diaspora is the largest in GCC which is around 3 million Indians in Saudi Arabia out of 7 million in GCC.

The number will grow as the crown prince has recently revealed an ambitious vision 2030 of $450 billion plan to reshape Saudi economy and generate more than 1.5 million jobs in mining, industry, logistics, and energy. The Indian investments in Saudi Arabia will grow and also the number of expats.

In the oil sector, India is the 3rd largest consumer of energy in the world and Saudi is a major supplier. Saudi Aramco is to invest in India’s oil refinery along with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

India is also fostering close security and defense ties with the Gulf States, which is a manifestation of trust in India by West Asia nations. On the other hand, India has a vital stake in peace and security in the region. There are around 7 million Expats living there with around $73 bln in revenue annually. Around 65% of India oil requirement comes from the region, 70% of its LNG, and 20% of India global trade with the region. Hence India can fill the security vacuum left by US in securing strategic ties to ensure the stability of the region.