Saudi Arabia was the final stop of the three nation tour of Narendra Modi, which started with the visit to Belgium to attend the latest India-EU Summit. From the looks of it, the Prime Minister of India had several fruitful discussions with Salman bin Abdulaziz, the King of Saudi Arabia. They discussed a wide range of issues such as trade and investment, and combating terrorism and touched on how they could further their strategic cooperation in the same. What made this occasion special was the fact that this was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 6 years. Manmohan Singh was the last Indian PM to visit these shores during 2010.
Cooperation in intelligence exchange
One of the areas in which both Modi and Abdulaziz talked was greater cooperation in exchanging intelligence. The main areas in this case were financing of terrorism, money laundering, and crimes related to the same.
Cooperation in combating terrorism
Terrorism has become an even greater global menace these days and combating it was one issue where both the countries discussed the scope for further cooperation. Also on the anvil were intelligence sharing and cyber security. In the domain of cyber security, they discussed ways in which they could prevent cyber space from being used for terrorism, disturbing social peace, and radicalizing activities.
Modi had a meeting with Al Falih, who heads the national oil company of Saudi Arabia – Saudi Aramco – apart from being the national health minister. According to a tweet from Vikas Swarup, a Spokesperson for the Union External Affairs Ministry, Saudi Aramco is looking at India as its top investment destination.
Meeting the IT pros
On the second day of his three-day visit, Modi visited a Tata Consultancy Services’ IT centre in Riyadh. The speciality of this centre is that it is manned exclusively by women professionals. Modi tweeted how this centre represented the glory of Saudi Arabia, a country which is known to follow traditional Islamic rules to the hilt. The session with these professionals was punctuated by a short address and several photographs including selfies.
Meeting the diaspora
Saudi Arabia is home to three million people from India. Modi also had a meeting with the representatives of this huge diaspora. In his address, he stated that the main reason India was growing was because it was politically stable. During the said interaction he mentioned that India was doing really well on three fronts – agriculture, services, and manufacturing. Modi visited the historic Al Masmak fortress too.
Apart from the fact that this is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia, what needs to be noted in this case is that Saudi Arabia is one country with which India’s diplomatic relations are not necessarily in public domain. One thing that needs to be noted about Modi is that he is always looking at newer countries to invest in India. Belgium is one example. From the point of view of terrorism financing, it has been alleged that Saudi Arabia is one country from where plenty of entities fund such activities – not only against India but other countries of the world as well.
So, if Saudi Arabia exchanges intelligence in this area then it can make things easier for RAW (Research and Analysis Wing, India) and other intelligence agencies. Modi has also appealed to the Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia to invest in India. It remains to be seen if Indians living in that country actually invest in India or not, and how effective that investment is.
The potential investment by Saudi Aramco is also going to be important. At present the situation regarding oil prices in India is precarious with the common complaint being that the prices are much higher than the international prices, which have reduced of late. Now, no one – other than the Indian Government – knows why this is the case and who is being benefited by the additional prices that hapless people are being made to pay but what remains to be seen is whether Saudi Aramco’s investment makes the situation any better or not. However, one can assume that this investment will generate a significant amount of jobs as and when it happens.
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