The Saudis are our friends too

King Abdullah will grace India’s Republic Day parade

Rediff and Business Standard report that the king of Saudi Arabia will be the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade.

In a significant forward move in oil diplomacy, India has invited King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, king and ruler of Saudi Arabia, to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade on January 26.

Not only will this be the first visit by a Saudi monarch in 50 years (King Saud visited India in 1955), but also will launch a new phase of relations between India and the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the biggest supplier of oil to India. [Rediff]

Unless specific deals are announced, the Saudi king’s visit does not mean much for oil diplomacy. But it may serve as the platform for a ‘new phase of relations’ between the two countries. Don’t hold your breath though — apart from symbolism (which can be an end in itself), real progress is likely to be limited and incremental. But the foreign policy establishment in Pakistan will get very excited by this one.

25 thoughts on “The Saudis are our friends too”

  1. Pingback: The Third Eye
  2. How pathetic ? We are going the US way too, in terms of hypocrisy.

    All that grandstanding and posturing about democracy etc that we make vis-a-vis Nepal (and to a lesser extent, with Pakistan) seems to have gone out the window here. Just shows that nothing matters like self-interest. Principles and values can go on vacation until we need them for… yes ,you guessed it…, grandstanding and posturing.

  3. Theesra,

    Just shows that nothing matters like self-interest. Principles and values can go on vacation until we need them for… yes ,you guessed it…, grandstanding and posturing.

    You said it. Ain’t it wonderful?

  4. We’re generally good at symbolism arent we? Ouf Foreign Policy has scores of symbolic gestures(and little to show later on, of course!).

    Whether this is going to make difference to our ties to the Saudis is anyone’s guess.

  5. We’re generally good at symbolism arent we? Ouf Foreign Policy has scores of symbolic gestures

    I doubt whether this gesture is only symbolic or not. Considering the Indian economy and living standards are growing in leaps and bounds, India will need much oil for the incremental cars and manufacturing Industries.

    I think the Indian government has enough good reasons to keep a good relation with Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of crude oil.

    Trade and economic relations, not the traditional associations shape up the modern foreign policies. If Pakistan can talk of having a relationship with Israel, then this is not so out of track!

  6. Rezwan,

    It is not quite appropriate to compare India-Saudi relations with Pakistan-Israel links. India has always been open to engage Saudi Arabia, and diplomatic relations have existed for a long time. Like many other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia hosts thousands of Indian migrant workers and remittances from these were an important source of foreign exchange in the 70s and 80s.

    The Pakistan-Saudi linkage grew especially strong due to the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, where the two were close partners. The Saudis were also interested in Pakistan as that country decided to develop nuclear weapons; this allowed the Saudis to counter Israeli nuclear power, and the growth of a Shiite Iran. That Pakistan supplied military manpower to Saudi Arabia also weighed in the Saudis siding with Pakistan. The point here is that it was Saudi Arabia that was not warm to India. It was the other way round in the Pakistan-Israel link.

    I think that Saudi strategic thought is in a state of flux. It has tough political, social and economic challenges at home, that require the government to do fresh thinking. Terrorism, and the Osama bin Laden dimension are another factor that threaten to destabilise the Kingdom. Relations with the United States are under stress. They are probably feeling around to see what they need to do in these new circumstances.

  7. Regarding Principles and all,

    We suported Bangladesh in 1971, today we are reaping the gratitude.

    We shunned Myanmar in 90’s and drove them in China’s Lap.

    We are shunning Nepal the result will again be increased control by china or Maoist rule.

    So , may be we should just take care of ourselves.

    Regards

  8. Gaurav,

    There is nothing wrong with “taking care of ourselves”. We all do it, and do it all the time.

    But, atleast there are no pretentions out there. We do it, and don’t pretend that we do it for lofty values like democracy and freedom. Most of the world scorns the US today because of its blidingly obvious hypocrisy in this respect. Believe me, if you lose respect like this, as a country, this is doing long-term harm. Not good.

    China, in fact, is far more worthy of emulation in this regard. Rarely does it let slip any of these grandiose statements. But, surely and steadily, it does what is suits itself best, and most importantly, makes no bones about it. No wonder which country holds which other by the b*lls today…

  9. It is a shame that we invite monarchs like him who has the scantest regards for human rights and democracy as the chief guest on a day when we clebrate democracy. Every year hundreds of Indian guest workers in Saudi Arabia are being punished in the most uncivilised ways like these.

  10. Hmmm is it cause congress-upa coalition wants to signal something to indian muslims?
    or is it to one up pakistan and give the impression that india has some leverage in political terms with saudi?
    or is it that oh well it was iran a few yrs ago so its saudi arabia now?

  11. I doubt whether this gesture is only symbolic or not. Considering the Indian economy and living standards are growing in leaps and bounds, India will need much oil for the incremental cars and manufacturing Industries.

    Rezwan,

    What India needs is new sources of energy, not just Oil. And a good energy strategy that takes into consideration the amount of perishable and renewable resources we have. It cannot be solely focused on Oil.

    And Saudi Arabia has never been friendly to us, as Nitin said.
    It takes two to tango, our foreign policy mandarins generally forget that. And believe that making a grand gesture from our side will solve problems or cement friendships. Lahore was a classic example. There have been scores of others too – the list is nearly endless.

  12. BTW, Theesra, We are sorrounded by exactly that – pretensions. I wouldn’t be too worried about how the world perceives us…….believe me, those perceptions will not prevent the world from doing business with us [EXHIBIT 1 – CHINA], if there is a buck to be made.

    And, India wouldn’t be the only benefeciary of this relationship….the Saudi’s also need to develop new [alternate and closer to home] markets for oil and maybe also obtain technological knowhow. The Saudi’s are increasingly concerned about relying too much on America.

  13. Am sure the hon’ble king will use this wonderous opportunity to bestow some untold millions to the construction and spread of wahabi madrassas in India as well… The Saudis are well known to abuse the laws and decency of liberal and democratic lands to promote some of the vilest poison known to man (wahabism) in spiritual garb … We’ve seen it time and again in country after ex-peaceful country, haven’t we? Start with wahabism seepinf into indonesia, south philipines, south thailand, bangladesh, the indo-nepal border (oh, thats a sister strain called deobandism, I guess), pakistan, somalia, yemen and if the freedom house report is any clue, the very heart of N America. We must all be very very cynical of any ‘saudi alliance’!

  14. India needs to take care of its strategic and economic needs. Whatever the Saudis stand for, they have got oil and they have got clout in the Islamic world. There is a saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. If the Saudis and the rest of the Islamic world want to follow Wahabism, that is their choice, who are we do deicde what is good for them. In the interest of 1 billion poor indians who are starving, it is in our interest to safeguard our energy future. True, principles are at stake, but what is the use when we will are at the bottom of the HDI index. What kind of respect do we command in this community of nations in the world, when we cannot guarantee a basic dignity of existence. How can we celebrate independence every year when we see children in bonded labour and eating off garbage dumps, who will listen to us and our posturing with our 5000 year old history. Maybe it is a bitter pill to swallow, but it is in our interest. Manmohan sing and the president are thebest educated duo among world leaders, who got economy and technological progress as their priorities. It is these things which will leapfrog us into the 21st century, rid us of poverty and starvation, disease and exploitation. Only then when we are strong and well off, we can stand and lecture to the world and try and spread someof our pacifist teachings of hinduism, buddhism, jainism, sikhism, and also our very own brand of tolerant islam to the world. This friendship or dialogue will also make the Saudis more amenable and willing to lend a ear to us, and help change their attitude towards India. Some amount of diplomacy and warmth will go a long way, we need to build bridges in the economic and technological interests of our country

  15. Instead of these indirect ways of supporting wahabism, why doesn’t the oh-so-secular government of India go whole hog and start a Ministry for the Converting the Entire of India into the Islamic Republic of India Instead of the Piecemeal Bit by Bit A Little Partition Each Time?

  16. Saudi was never a democracy and probably won’t be for a long time to come. India has a colorful history of supporting despots around the world whatever the basis for the support was – third worldism, non-alignment, south-south cooperation. India’s democracy policy towards Nepal and, haltingly Pakistan, are aberration, not a norm for India (I hope for India’s sake, the PM and MEA will turn around to help Nepal defeat the Maoists first). Indian foreign policy is generally understood to be based on no export of ideology and no conquering of lands beyond its boundaries.

    Indians living in US tend to associate Washington spouts as those of Indian foreign policy. The 80 year-old Saudi King is coming to India for mutual benefit. Until now, Saudi could care less about India and considered it as a third rate inconsequential country, which it was by choice. Apparently that is about to change.

    And anyone who despises oil and gas, try living without it for a week.

  17. Pakistan’s Dawn reports that the Saudi king will be ‘bearing a message of peace’ from Musharraf and the Hurriyat. That’s either wishful reporting or the line that the Pakistani establishment wants to take with its domestic audience, or both. I don’t think the Saudi king will use his first visit in half-a-century to talk to India about Kashmir. I would think that would be an extremely poor course of action.

  18. Now they are gouging out one eye of some poor India fella,

    What fine chap are, our friend the Saudis.

    Well they did gouge out some egyptian eyes also

    Regards

  19. I cannot believe that there are people out there who still say

    If the Saudis and the rest of the Islamic world want to follow Wahabism, that is their choice, who are we do deicde what is good for them.

    How can it not be our business when such ridiculous experimentation by the Saudis leads to our kin and countrymen killed? or fosters a neighbour to the north intent on breaking up our country?

  20. While I am no fan of the House of Saud, it will do us well to take a hard look at the practicality of a ‘moral’ policy that we wish for.

    Just where does a morally inclined foreign policy draw the line? After all, the presumption is that the one sermonising ought to be clean as a whistle – no? The truth is ‘is hamam me sab nange hai’.

    To imagine that had we ‘kept our distance’ and ‘shamed’ them they might reorder their their own systems, is frankly a bit naive. After all, they have the examples (of the entire west and us) in front of their eyes should they care to see them with an open mind.

    No – Saudi’s or indeed the wider world of despots and tinpots will only change under pressure. It might be a cynical view but which society has changed when they did not want to? Other than Turkey which was forced on the secular path (by the Army no less) can we think of any? And that too is fraying at the edges.

    Lets be hardnosed about this – we need oil and we need to keep certain regimes on our side – howsoever unpalatable they may be. We live in an extremely dangerous neighbourhood and we must do all we can to protect our interests.

  21. From Nitin’s Dawn link:

    So far the Saudi establishment has been critical of India’s handling of its more than 12 per cent Muslims out of more than a billion people. Issues such as the Ayodhya incident in 1992 and the endless blood letting in Kashmir have usually prompted aloofness between the two.

    Given how KSA treats the non-Muslim foriegn workers, they sure are worried about Indian minorities.

    I think this visit has oil written all over it. The earlier visit to KSA by Aiyar resulted in offer of Indian oil cos taking a stake in Saudi refineries. Dunno if it was finalized. But cos like Reliance have a lead in refining a more crude form of crude oil (the type of crude more of which will be dominant).

  22. Saudi oil is our friend too should be the title. Question for Theesra:
    If India shows the “principle” you want what will it acheive ?
    how many people will it lift out of poverty ? what practical good will it do ?
    following principle like Nehru is self destructive.
    Follow Gandhi principles (how ever much I respect him) is worship of poverty and weakness. If India is strong both militarily and economically then it can help people.

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