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India – Saudi Arabia bilateral relations
India – Saudi Arabia bilateral relations
India–Saudi Arabia relations (Hindi: भारत-सऊद अरब संबंध; Arabic: اﻟﺴﻌﻮدﻳﺔ اﻟﻬﻨﺪﻳﺔ اﻟﻌﻼﻗﺎت), also referred to as Indian- Saudi relations or Indo-Saudi relations, are the bilateral relations between the Republic of India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Relations between the two nations are generally strong and close, especially in commercial interests. Indo-Saudi bilateral trade reached US$27.48 billion in the financial year 2017–18, up from US$25.1 billion in the preceding year. Saudi Arabia’s exports to India stood at US$22.06 billion whereas India’s exports were US$5.41 billion.
The two countries share a special relationship, and Saudi Arabia has been considered to be a popular migration destination for Indian Muslims who share strong cultural and religious ties with
Trade and cultural links between ancient India and Arabia date back to the third millennium BC. By 1000 AD, the trade relations between southern India and Arabia flourished and became the backbone of the Arabian economy. Arab traders held a monopoly over the spice trade between India and Europe until the rise of European imperialist empires. India was one of the first nations to establish ties with the Third Saudi State. During the 1930s, British India heavily funded Nejd through financial subsidies.
Formal diplomatic relations between contemporary India and Saudi Arabia were established soon after India gained independence in 1947. Relations between the two countries have strengthened considerably owing to collaboration in regional affairs and trade. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to India, who is one of the top seven trading partners and the fifth biggest investor in Saudi Arabia.
In history there have been four visits to Saudi Arabia by an Indian Prime Minister: Jawaharlal Nehru (1955), Indira Gandhi (1982), Manmohan Singh (2010) and Narendra Modi (2016) . The two countries share similar views on combating terrorism. There is a strong geographical and a demographic connect between the 2 countries as Islam is the 2nd major religion in India. Moreover, the Muslim population in India is the second largest in the world, thus sending a huge number of Indian pilgrims every year for Umrah and Hajj.
Development of Bilateral Relations
India’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia have been affected by the latter’s relations with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir conflict and during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, at the expense of its relations with India. The Soviet Union’s close relations with India also negatively affected Indo- Saudi relations. During the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), India officially maintained neutrality. Saudi Arabia’s close military and strategic ties with Pakistan have also been a source of continuing strain.
Since the 1990s, both nations have taken steps to improve ties. Saudi Arabia has supported granting observer status to India in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has expanded its collaboration with India to fight Islamic terrorism in the Middle East. In January 2006, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made a special visit to India, becoming the first Saudi monarch in 51 years to do so. The Saudi king and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement forging a strategic energy partnership that was termed the “Delhi Declaration.” The pact provides for a “reliable, stable and increased volume of crude oil supplies to India through long-term contracts.” Both nations also agreed on joint ventures and the development of oil and natural gas in public and private sectors. An Indo-Saudi joint declaration in the Indian capital New Delhi described the king’s visit as “heralding a new era in India-Saudi Arabia relations.”
In 2019, Saudi Arabia increased the Hajj quota of India, making it the 2nd highest country in the number of Pilgrims. Thus, the number of Indian pilgrims jumped to 200,000 per year in 2019.
In October 2021, India voted against a Dutch resolution in the UN Human Rights Council that proposed extending the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) human rights investigators in Yemen. This resolution had been heavily lobbied against by Saudi Arabia.
To know more about bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia, please download our booklet.