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India, Saudis, Gulf & Iran: Turbulence ahead

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Saudi Arabia, a second time after 2016, on October 29-30. Besides bilateral parleys he addressed the Future Investment Initiative (FII), known as “Davos in the Desert”. Earlier, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had visited India in February 2019, on the eve of India’s Lok Sabha elections. The US-Saudi combine obtained a win for the Narendra Modi government after the Balakot airstrike by securing getting Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s prompt return by Islamabad. The Modi government’s wooing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by establishing close personal ties with their crown princes, the de facto rulers, has multiple facets.

This outreach is neither new nor inexplicable, as India has always favoured good relations with them. First, these two nations host most of the six million-odd Indian Gulf diaspora. Both are vital for India’s energy security and are, particularly the UAE, important trading partners. Strategically, deepened engagement undercuts the financial, strategic and religion-based support that Pakistan has previously drawn to its advantage, especially in manipulating the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) for India-bashing over Kashmir. Finally, Saudi Arabia, despite the crown prince’s unsavoury reputation as a ruthless autocrat, is liberalising, albeit at its own pace. Both nations are diversifying their economies and foreign partners fearing American unpredictability and global opinion against carbon based energy.

However, international relations cannot be conducted in isolated subsets with groups of nations, as regional and global forces create dynamic contexts. A fresh churn is driven by the popular protests on the streets of nations........

© The Asian Age