Author : Kanchi Gupta

Issue BriefsPublished on Aug 23, 2023 PDF Download
ballistic missiles,Defense,Doctrine,North Korea,Nuclear,PLA,SLBM,Submarines

India and Saudi Arabia: The Scope for Greater Security Cooperation

Saudi Arabia and India recently signed a defence cooperation agreement, signalling a shift in ties. This issue brief looks at the importance of Indo-Saudi relations from a geopolitical perspective, outlines the trajectory of their bilateral defence partnership, and emphasises the symbiotic nature of their relations and the increasing scope for greater cooperation.

India’s diplomatic outreach to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE to secure the release of 46 nurses abducted by the Islamic State (IS) in July this year underscores the importance of Ienhancing, in particular, political and security cooperation with the Gulf. Security ties are essential to complement the existing framework, which supports India’s energy and economic interests in the region. While India has had security agreements with Oman, Qatar and the UAE for some time, India-Saudi Arabia defence ties were only recently institutionalised during Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit to New Delhi in February 2014.

Prince Salman’s visit, the highest-level visit by a Saudi dignitary to India since 2006, brought into focus Riyadh’s diplomatic initiative in seeking greater defence cooperation with India as part of its efforts to diversify its security partnerships. Reciprocal high-level visits in recent years between New Delhi and Riyadh—including the visits of Saudi King Abdullah in 2006, former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010, former Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in 2011 and former Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony in 2012—have set the momentum for stronger bilateral relations between both countries.

As China and Pakistan, among other countries, deepen their engagement with Saudi Arabia, it is
critical for India to look beyond economic imperatives to secure its wider interests in the region.

This Issue Brief examines the main contours of the India–Saudi Arabia security and defence partnership and the background against which it has evolved. The first section looks at the importance of Indo–Saudi relations from a geopolitical perspective, and why it is crucial for the two countries to diversify security partners given the political turmoil in West Asia. This section argues that geopolitical changes have necessitated greater cooperation between both countries; they are delinking their partnership from individual policy imperatives, including their respective relations with Iran and Pakistan.

The second section outlines the trajectory of the Indo-Saudi bilateral partnership and the main takeaways from high-level visits and defence cooperation agreements between the two countries. The last section emphasises the symbiotic nature of India–Saudi Arabia relations and the increasing scope for greater cooperation.

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