[21th June 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: The US-Saudi Agreement, from First-Bump to Embrace

PYQ Relevance: 

Q How will I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE and USA) grouping transform India’s position in global politics? (UPSC IAS/2022)

Q Indian and USA are two large democracies. Examine the basic tenets on which the two political systems are based.(UPSC IAS/2018)

Mentors’ comment: Over the past eight decades, the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen numerous highs and lows, from the 1973 oil embargo to the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. Nonetheless, two iconic moments stand out in this history: the first is the meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud on Valentine’s Day 1945 aboard a U.S. cruiser, marking the start of seven decades of a steadfast bilateral relationship, grounded in a crucial “oil-for-security” arrangement. The second is the fist-bump on July 15, 2022, in Riyadh between U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), symbolizing a more balanced and largely transactional partnership.

Let’s Learn!

Why in the News?

Riyadh and Washington are approaching a new and enhanced phase in their relationship, provisionally named the Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA).

Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA): A move towards Reconciliation

  • Rumoured Agreement: Rumors suggest a new and enhanced U.S.-Saudi relationship is on the horizon, tentatively called the Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA).
  • Objectives: This agreement aims to align MBS’s domestic and regional ambitions with the White House’s goal of securing a significant diplomatic achievement for President Biden’s re-election campaign.

Components of the SAA

  • Bilateral Component: The SAA is expected to formalize the current alliance into a strategic defense pact, similar to the U.S.-Japan treaty, and include advanced military support such as F-35 fighters and nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
  • Regional Component: Regionally, Saudi Arabia seeks a ceasefire in Gaza and progress towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In return, the U.S. wants Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel and limit its ties with Beijing and Moscow.
  • Global Component: The global aspect would likely involve cooperation on international security and economic initiatives.

Economic Underpinnings

  • Economic Significance: While the U.S. is no longer reliant on Saudi oil, the economic aspects of the SAA are expected to be substantial. 
  • Aligning with MBS’s Vision: The agreement would likely ensure significant participation of American companies in Saudi projects under MBS’s Vision 2030.

Strategic Motivations

  • Countering Chinese Influence: China’s increasing influence in Saudi Arabia, marked by President Xi Jinping’s 2022 visit, has prompted the U.S. to strengthen its ties with Riyadh.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Importance: Despite the changing dynamics, Saudi Arabia remains crucial due to its religious significance, economic strength, and MBS’s leadership.

Challenges to the SAA

  • Mistrust and Policy Inconsistencies: A decade of growing mistrust between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, exacerbated by perceived U.S. inaction and policy inconsistencies, poses a significant challenge.
  • Gaza Conflict: The ongoing Gaza conflict makes it politically challenging for Saudi Arabia to reconcile with Israel, a key condition for U.S. Senate approval of the SAA.

Regional Dynamics

  • Recent Events: Recent regional events, including the Hamas attack on Israel and Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic moves, can be viewed through the SAA lens.
  • Potential Outcomes: The quest for the SAA is a race against time, with potential outcomes ranging from a full agreement reinforcing U.S. influence to a region remaining in turmoil.

India’s Perspective

  • Significant Stakes: India has significant stakes in the region and needs to monitor the emerging SAA closely.
  • Enhancing Stability: A successful SAA could enhance regional stability, create economic opportunities, and support India’s strategic interests, including the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.
  • Independent Policy: India should continue to pursue its “Act West” policy independently of the developments in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Conclusion: The potential Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia represents a significant shift in international relations, reflecting evolving geopolitical dynamics and mutual strategic interests. This agreement could solidify a more transactional and pragmatic partnership, balancing regional stability and global security concerns.However, significant challenges remain, including deep-seated mistrust and the complex geopolitical landscape shaped by ongoing conflicts and rivalries. 


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