Monday, March 1, 2010

Bring Saudi Arabia into IBSA Before Making it a Mediator in Indo-Pak Dialogue

Getting Saudi Arabia to Play a Fair and Quite Role is Key

Despite Sashi Tharoor pronouncements and retractions, we are sure India has sought Saudi Arabia's help in reining in various Islamic terrorists groups supported by Pakistan that create death and destruction in Indian cities with regular frequency. Saudi is the main financier of increasingly bankrupt and strife-ridden Pakistan. Being an Islamic country that doesn't think that it's the greatest gift to mankind, with immense oil and energy resources, and influence in Pakistan, unlike the erratic US, Saudi may actually be a asset to India during it's long winding and ever changing negotiations with Pakistan.

Saudi would surely be better than China in the role of quite mediator - for example, India could have talked to Pakistan via Saudi, quietly, instead of via US, which ends up using the situation for its own advantage, on what Pakistan was willing to do, soon after Mumbai Islamic terror attacks on 26/11. May be Pakistan will not play so many double games if it gives its word to Muslim Saudi instead of to Christian US - when Pakistan follows Islamic practice of lying to non-Muslims to win a battle/war (we forget the exact Quranic word that convey the meaning of this war/negotiation strategy of Islamic groups/countries). In fact, assurances made to Pakistan to Saudi may be more binding then those made to US or India.

Of course Saudi, being an Islamic country itself, may also practice the art of lying to non-Muslim India. But we would like to think Saudi, if it does so, has more to lose strategically and financially unlike morally bankrupt Pakistan. To bring Saudi into that strategic and financial reliance on India, we must first open up to Saudi Arabia.

While the current visit by Manmohan Singh, first visit by Indian PM since Indira in 1982, has been well received, despite Tharoor tamasha, we have to go a step further.

"We deeply value Saudi Arabia's role as a reliable partner in meeting our energy needs. We believe that conditions are ripe for moving beyond a traditional buyer-seller relationship to a comprehensive energy partnership," he [PM] said.

"India sees Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner for promoting peace, stability and economic development. Such a partnership will bring benefits not only to our two countries but to the region we both belong to, and to the world at large," the PM said.

The Saudi industry captains said India should grant multi-entry visa to ease movement of businessmen and clear hurdles in investment funds. They said there was tremendous scope for cooperation in the oil, power and IT sectors.
Singh said Indian companies are well-equipped to participate in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in Saudi Arabia. "We should also establish new partnerships in the area of new and renewable energy through sharing of clean technologies and joint collaborations," he said.

Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trading partner with two-way commerce being to the tune of about $ 25 billion.

We should have, after consulting with South Africa and Brazil, brought Saudi Arabia into the IBSA strategic initiative as Saudi is also a major littoral state. IBSA has been one Indian initiative that has been a success and has potential to be substantive if we play it right. Bringing in Saudi into a strategic framework of a global group would make Saudi a responsible and viable country. Saudi would then, one would hope, play a fair and quite mediator role between the troubled Pakistan with its negotiations with India.

We see little downside to Saudi being a quite go in-between between India and Pakistan. Surely Saudi would play the role much better than US or China. But in order for Saudi Arabia to play its role fairly, we should bring Saudi along to the global stage and take the relationship beyond an economic one.

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