“Very good, and very peculiar at the same time.”
This is how an official describes the carefully nurtured intelligence-cum-security cooperation model nurtured by India and Saudi Arabia, which has helped reel in catches as big as terror suspects Abu Jundal and Fasih Mohammed.
This proximity in security cooperation is reflective of the transformed bilateral relationship between the two countries as well as the international scenario in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror strikes.Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the United State’s war on terror included policies on countering al Qaeda activities, terror financing, and launch of a financial investigation unit in the Ministry of Interior to analyse money-laundering cases. India also duly benefited from these policies.
“There is inter-dependence. India enjoys good security cooperation with the US as well as Saudi Arabia,” the official said. Saudi Arabia had walked the extra mile to deport Jundal to India despite constant pressure from Pakistani agencies, he added.
Besides being India’s biggest source of oil, Saudi Arabia also hosts the maximum number of Indian passport holders outside the country (two million).
It was King Abdullah's historic visit to India as the 2006 Republic Day chief guest that put an end to the frosty ties — extending over two decades — between the two countries. Even as they decided to enhance their ties on security, defence and intelligence-sharing, the Saudi foreign minister visited India twice in 2008 while both the external affairs minister and national security advisor visited the Gulf country the same year.
In a 2010 tour that made Manmohan Singh the first Indian prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia in 28 years, the two nations signed an extradition treaty. “We regularly share intelligence with Saudi,” said an official. “It’s not that we are always successful. Sometimes we hit it, sometimes we miss it.”
Jundal's extradition was a case in point. Fasih's extradition also involved winding talks, and “legal issues” were cited.
But the Jundal extradition has come has a very heartening experience. “Pakistan wanted him too. But, in the end, we prevailed,” an official said.