Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia, first in 28 years by an Indian prime minister, couldn’t have expected a better outcome — a strategic partnership enshrined in the Riyadh declaration signed with King Abdullah.
Singh, the third PM after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to visit the Arab country, voiced India’s concerns about the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He stressed that Delhi and Riyadh had common interest in fighting extremism and firming up security cooperation.
The firmed up strategic partnership had an equally strong economic dimension. Singh positioned India as a favourable destination for Saudi investments, while offering Delhi’s help in the Arab nation’s quest for turning into a knowledge-based economy.
Just like the Al-Qadea and its protector Taliban posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, which also faced extremist challenge along its borders with Iran and Yemen, Delhi, too, faced threats from Pakistan-based terror outfits, Riyadh was told.
If Islamabad would cooperate, talks could solve all the issues between the two sides, Singh told the Majlis Al-Shura (consultative council). He, however, was firm that Pakistan had to act on terror. “… If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries”.
And the Riyadh declaration stressed the threat all nations faced from terrorism. Talking to mediapersons on his plane at the end of his three-day visit, Singh said, “I explained to him (King Abdullah) the role that terrorism… inspired by Pakistan is playing in our country. And I did not ask for him to do anything other than to use his good offices to persuade Pakistan to desist from this path.” Saudi Arabia and Pakistan share very good ties.
In the hydrocarbon sector, the two sides moved from buyer-seller relationship to what is being described as a comprehensive energy partnership.
“Saudi Arabia, which has 1.8 million Indian passport holders, is an important country for us. The relationship acquiring the stature of a strategic partnership is very significant,” said Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.