Saudi Arabia has long maintained that Pakistan is its brother and India its friend. But friendship triumphed over kinship when Saudi Arabia agreed to hand over key 26/11 attack handler Zaibuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal to India.
For the last six months, Pakistan had been on a diplomatic overdrive with Saudi Arabia trying to get Jundal back to their soil, Indian officials familiar with the developments told HT. Jundal had a Pakistani passport. "They used all sorts of tactics, put constant pressure on Saudi Arabia to get him back," said a source.
They said Pakistan had also tried to assure the Saudi officials that they would "bringing him to justice" on the Mumbai attack case, citing promises made at the "highest levels" to India. "They thought Saudi authorities would give in based on the strength of their ties with Islamabad than on the conviction of their arguments."But getting Jundal's custody was too important for India and it only managed to convince Saudi authorities after six months of negotiation, arguments and counter arguments.
New Delhi has been working to improve ties and heighten security cooperation with the Arab nation for a long time now, admit officials.
Saudi Arabia has 2 million Indian passport holders - the maximum number outside of India. The visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 marked an apparent end to the frosty ties over two decades between the two countries. Besides this, the Delhi declaration was the first-ever such document that bore the signature of Saudi King.
Soon after, efforts were made to ensure greater security cooperation. Saudi foreign minister visited India in 2008 and his Indian counterpart visited Saudi once to ensure the momentum is kept up. Since 2006, both countries have also placed importance on defence ties.
External affairs minister SM Krishna insisted on having a senior career diplomat as Indian ambassador to Saudi thus paving way for Talmiz Ahmed replacing MOH Farooqi, a seasoned politician as India's envoy. "When a relationship is on the mend, it helps to have an ambassador who can pick up the phone and call the joint secretary who heads the division. Talmiz used his vast experience... It paid off," an official said.