Amid Indo-Pak standoff, PM Modi plans for a Saudi tour!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Foreign trips of Indian Premier Narendra Modi keep India in regular world media news and Indian strategists would like PM Modi to continue his foreign tours so that domestic issues, especially the corruption cases rocking the parliament, get sidetracked and look meaningless. The Modi government rather successfully pursues the foreign tour policy quite religiously.
By keeping the hype of aborted India-Pakistan NSA level talk sideways, Indian BJP government is meticulously planning, obviously in consultation with Saudi embassy in New Delhi, for a high prolife visit of PM Modi to Saudi Arabia in the near future. The date of Mod’s visit to Saudi kingdom is expected to be announced soon.
PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia could perhaps be the biggest headline grabbing story of the year, as and when it happens in coming months. A person closely involved with informal level of contacts between the Arab world and PMO said that Modi’s trip to Saudi Arabia will have tremendous impact. This is going to be an ultimate masterstroke. India and Saudi Arabia hold cordial bilateral relations and Manmohan Singh had visited there in 2010 after a gap of 28 years by any Indian PM.
Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude, accounting for almost one fifth of its needs, as also the fourth largest trading partner. In October last year, Modi had sent Dharmendra Pradhan, union minister for petroleum and natural gas for improving business relations in oil sector.
Pakistan is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and PM Modi’s proposed trip to the kingdom amid India’s tussle with Pakistan over Kashmir issue makes the proposal somewhat interesting.
The Indian Muslim community looks up to the Arab world for jobs, religious and spiritual guidance as also of monetary support for social, cultural and educational purposes. Islamic institutions like religious madrassas (BJP questions the purpose of madrassas in India!) and a whole lot of Indian NGOs thrive on donations offered by Arab countries.
Modi had received the warmest possible reception in Dubai and Abu Dhabi by Emirates rulers as also an assurance of investment of Rs four and half crores by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince.
After Modi’s hugely successful trip to UAE, his aides and BJP leaders’ expectations from his proposed tour to Saudi Arabia have gone up and they have their reasons for that. The Modi’s proposed trip to Saudi Arabia gains political or social significance. Since Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and Medina, it has a very special place in minds of believers of Islam. More so, a huge number of Indians around 28 lakh, mostly Muslims are in Saudi Arabia. That’s the largest expatriate population of that country.
The Hindutva BJP leaders, seeking to make India a super economic power, look forward to huge investments from Saudi kingdom (much more than from Dubai and Abu Dhabi) as they seem to believe that the Arab world rulers have huge sense of trade and investment, something where Modi too excels as a leader is helping them to find a natural bonding. BJP and Indian PM Office also claim there is an irresistible urge between him and Arab world leaders to discover each other.
New Delhi is trying to boost Indian diplomatic profile to woo rich foreign investors from Arab world . A few months back Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani had visited New Delhi. Two days External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj traveled to Egypt and was conscious to point out that strength of relations with Palestine and Arab nations would not be affected by India’s relations with Israel. There are reports that PM Modi has accepted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s invitation to visit Tehran when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the BRICS/SCO summit in Russia. The Prime Minister will also be going to Turkey to attend G-20 summit
Arabs have the capital and we have avenues of investment. In Modi, they see a strong leader who has a positive outlook for business and industry. He also has the keenness to take India and its people to a higher level of growth and development.
It’s hazardous also to make any guesses at the moment but the emerging situations could throw up intense debates and interesting possibilities. His visit to Sheikh Zyed Grand Mosque in Dubai unleashed wide-ranging debates, both within and outside of Muslim community in India.
Saudi Arabian king Salman Bin Abdulaziz and Modi have already struck a personal rapport. Two of them met in November 2014 on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Brisbane. India is eager to extent that friendship and convert it to economic benefits.
There is possibility that PM Modi might travel beyond Saudi capital Riyadh to Jeddah, which is termed as gateway to Mecca, and have some important engagements there. But since there are no dates as yet there can’t be itinerary but all this is being informally discussed.
Obviously, India needs Arab money for India’s developmental purposes. However, whether Modi’s effort for special friendship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries leaders have any bearing in changing the perception of Muslim community domestically in the longer run is a million dollar question.
Whether or not Indian economic ties with Arab nations would lead Hindutva parties like BJP to view Indian Muslims as legitimate good citizens of India and rebuild their historic Babri Mosque pulled down shamelessly by the ruling Hindutva fascist elements in 1992 in Uttar Pradesh on false pretexts, also remain to be seen.