Saudi-Iran Deal invites lectures for India to join Western Bloc
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar
The picture of Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister, accompanied by Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, and Saudi National Security Adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, in Beijing did surprise the diplomatic circles but there was nothing earth shattering about it.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to re-establish formal diplomatic ties and have promised respect for “the non-interference in internal affairs of states”. However this diplomatic handshake has simply brought things to pre-2016, when the two countries had severed relations due to the execution by Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shiite cleric, leading to attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Now the two nations have also agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty, and to engage in economic, cultural and sports cooperation. The timeline for implementation is two months from the date of the agreement. The successful negotiation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, facilitated by China is indeed an achievement. Though everyone should be rest assured that this deal is not going to be a stepping stone for Chinese meddling in the complicated affairs of the Middle East.
Though International and even some Indian “Pundits” have already started advising India to give up its Non Alignment / Multi Polar Alignments (as you like it) and join the Western Block.
2004 rise of Shiite Crescent with Iran influencing Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan had made USA, Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies quite jittery. By 2011 Iran was involved in Syria and later in Yemen. Naturally the Saudi Arabia tried to contain Iran, directly and through funding its own proxy groups, thus creating “crescent of chaos.”
The Middle East became the scene of regional fighting, including ongoing US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Syrian civil war, the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, and the Saudi/United Arab Emirates (UAE)-led war against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The US and Iran relationship had plummeted miserably.
In 2015 Saudi Arabia had started a war with neighbouring Yemen. Russia had also formally entered the Syrian civil war backing President Assad thus aligning itself with Iran regime. The US began supplying military resources against Sunni extremist groups like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
By 2020, the US began negotiating to normalize relations between Israel and the Gulf states and tried to strengthen and expand an anti-Iran alliance in the region. Thus relationship of Israel improved a lot with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, thus helping the USA contain Iran.
However people forget that India has not been sitting just quiet all this time. The historic Delhi Declaration was signed between India and Saudi Arabia in 2006 which in 2010 through Riyadh Declaration was turned into a Strategic Partnership. 2014 saw the beginning of a defence cooperation between the two countries when the present King (then the Crown Prince) had visited India.
Next in 2016, PM Modi was conferred with Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour and thus began a new era of enhanced relationship in economic, defence, energy security and political fields. No wonder in 2018 it was a historic day when Air India flight 139 flew through from New Delhi over Saudi Air space to land in Tel Aviv. Saudi Arabia thus opened its airspace for the first time to any commercial flight to Israel marking a huge diplomatic shift.
By 2019 MoUs were signed in areas of investment, defence production, aviation, tourism, medical products,agriculture, infrastructure, Science and Technology, housing, Solar Power etc and the Kingdom began investment worth INR 850000 Crores (US 100 billion dollars). A Strategic Partnership Council was also established to keep things moving ahead with speed.
Today Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest trading partner of India, with bilateral trade of INR 248,880 Crores (US $ 29.28 billion). Our 18% of oil comes from Saudi Arabia. Approx 22lakhs Indians live and work in the Kingdom forming the largest expatriate community.
In addition more than 2 lakhs Indians visit Saudi Arabia annually just for Haj, tourists are in addition. During Covid epidemic, India had provided 45 lakhs COVISHIELD Vaccine to the Kingdom and was reciprocated with liquid oxygen etc during the second wave in India.
Now while Indo Saudi relationship was being enhanced to a Strategic Partnership, so was the Indo Iranian relationship, in spite of the Iran -America hysterics.
India and Iran have historical relationship that goes back to Mahabharat days and before. Today Indo Iranian bilateral trade is just around INR 16500 Crores because of sanctions by USA. However now India is going ahead and total trade has increased by 59.9 % as compared to the corresponding figure of the previous year. In 2016, India had signed a deal with Iran entailing INR 68000Crores investment in Chabahar port and industries in Chabar Special Economic Zone.
Facilities at Chabahar port is being developed as a transit route to Afghanistan and central Asia. All this will bring cargo to Bandar Abbas port and Chabahar port, and free Kabul from its dependence on Pakistan to reach the outer world, giving India access to Afghanistan and beyond to countries of Central Asia and onwards to Europe.
Just a few days back Iran Ambassador has pitched in for more investment in Chabahar and also towards starting the import of oil too.
Similarly India is having a very strong relationship with UAE, Oman, Egypt other countries in the region. UAE is already the third largest bilateral trade partner of India. After signing a Comprehensive agreement in 2022 the trade has increased by more than27% and surpassed INR 748000 Crores. Pakistan has been totally marginalized.
Keeping the above in proper perspective, yes the Saudi Arabia Iran deal will be beneficial for the region. The deal is likely to also bring in a potential new era of Chinese economic involvement with the two Gulf nations. At the same time India’s trade too will increase by leaps and bounds. The overall economic benefit will douse the ongoing fire in the Middle East.
Some people recognizing the growing importance of BRICS, talk about China as the C in the Brics group, the new global economic forum whose GDP, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, now surpasses that of the US-dominated G7 economic bloc. They forget that the stability and acceptance of BRIC is more because of ” I ” the vowel. The Chinese OBOR crash landed primarily because India had refused to join it over Paki Occupied Kashmir.
It is because of India that Iran has already submitted an application to join the other Brics nations (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa), and Saudi Arabia has indicated that it will do the same soon. Other nations, such as Argentina and Egypt, are lining up as well
Recognising the nature of the current global order is important because it has consequences for the future of the working of international politics. A common error in American and West European foreign policy rhetoric is that the World is now Unipolar, while Chinese and Russian think it is Bipolar. However after Ukraine conflict all have realized that the World has moved to multipolarity. Soon even Japan and Brazil will have to play their assertive roles
Both USA and China are now aware that with rise of India, there can be no return to bipolar politics in the World affairs. Slowly India has started playing a large role in Africa, the Middle East, Indo Pacific and soon in even Latin America. For a time USA and Western Europe may find it more difficult to accept the rise of India. In fact China will be the first to accept it. After all both India and China had been peacefully dominating the World Trade for a long long time along the Indo-Pacific / Indian Ocean trade route.
The availability of multipolar choice means that neither USA or China or an economic bloc like European Union unable to dictate to the rest of the countries, major or minor. So both the US and China and for that matter Russia and Japan all have to now start taking note of the new Kid on the block…India a rising Super Power both economically and militarily. The US, must learn that it cannot afford to make the same mistakes it did while competing with the Soviet Union and later with China and Russia.
All must remember that there is only one Nation which has a Ocean named after it and the name was not given by India. Also once upon a time India has 33% of the World GDP and once again it is galloping towards that figure.