- The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947, and Indian government officials say they have always enjoyed cordial and friendly relations that reflect their socio-cultural and economic ties going back centuries
- The visit of King Abdullah to India in January 2006 was a watershed moment in the relationship.
- The royal visit resulted in the signing of the Delhi Declaration, which was followed in 2010 by the Riyadh Declaration that elevated bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.
- Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Riyadh in April 2016 captured the spirit of enhanced cooperation in the political, economic, security, and defence realms.
- King Salman conferred on the Prime Minister the kingdom’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash, indicating the importance Saudi Arabia attached to its relationship with India.
- The visit of Crown Prince Mohammed to India in February 2019 took this momentum further. It was announced that the kingdom would invest approximately $100 billion in India, and six MoUs/ Agreements were signed in a range of fields.
- An agreement was also signed to pave the way for Saudi Arabia to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) launched by the Prime Minister
- India is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trade partner; Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in FY2022-23 was valued at $52.76 billion.
- Trade with Saudi Arabia accounted for 4.53% of India’s total trade in FY23.
- The joint statement issued during MBS’s visit said, “Both sides praised the burgeoning trade ties and noted that bilateral trade has increased to more than US$52 billion in 2022-23, marking a growth of more than 23%.”
- As of January 2022, there were 2,783 Indian companies registered as joint ventures/ 100% owned entities with investments worth approximately $2 billion in the kingdom.
- Indian companies and corporate groups such as L&T, Tata, Wipro, TCS, TCIL, and Shapoorji Pallonji have established a strong presence in Saudi Arabia
- Saudi direct investments in India amounted to $3.15 billion (as of March 2022). Among the major investors are Aramco, SABIC, Zamil, e-holidays, and the Al Batterjee Group.
- Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has invested in several Indian startups such as Delhivery, FirstCry, Grofers, Ola, OYO, Paytm, and PolicyBazaar through SoftBank Vision Fund.
- In June 2020, PIF announced an investment of $1.49 billion (2.32% stake) in Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms, and in November 2020, an investment of $1.3 billion (2.04% stake) in Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd.
- In May 2020, Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) acquired a 29.91% stake in Daawat Foods Ltd with an investment of $17.23 million.
- In July 2021, PIF invested in India-based healthtech Healthifyme’s $75 million Series C funding round
- Among the major proposed investments is the $44 billion West Coast Refinery & Petrochemicals Project in Maharashtra, which is being jointly built by Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, and an Indian consortium that includes Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, and Bharat Petroleum Corporation.
Saudi Arabia is a key partner for ensuring India’s energy security, and was its third largest crude and petroleum products source for FY23. India imported 39.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) of crude from the country in FY23, amounting to 16.7% of India’s total crude imports.
India’s LPG imports from Saudi Arabia stood at 7.85 MMT, and 11.2% of its total petroleum product imports, in FY 23.
iii. Defence Partnership
- The defence partnership has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years. Then Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane made a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia in December 2020.
- There is extensive naval cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia, and two editions of the bilateral naval exercise, Al Mohed al Hindi, have been concluded so far. Both sides also cooperate closely in the domain of defence industries and capacity-building.
- On defence ties, the joint statement said that the two sides commended their deepening cooperation, and agreed to continue work including joint exercises, training and high-level visits, and to “consider possibilities of joint development and production of defence equipment”
While India and Saudi Arabia have strengthened their relations in various fields over the years, there have also been occasional diplomatic challenges.
For instance, issues related to the welfare and working conditions of Indian laborers in Saudi Arabia have been a subject of concern.
Overall, the India-Saudi Arabia relationship is multifaceted and has evolved over time to encompass economic, strategic, cultural, and diplomatic dimensions, reflecting the importance of the two countries in the geopolitics of the Middle East and South Asia