Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India and Saudi Arabia: Strengthening the Bond


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-Saudi Arabia bilateral trade and relationship

Saudi Arabia


  • Saudi Arabia and India ties have undergone a significant transformation in recent years. The camaraderie between the two nations is rooted in our cultural and civilisational ties. The Kingdom and India share mutual respect and appreciation which opens doors for our collaboration and partnership. These ties have been cemented by diplomatic visits made by leaders from both countries.

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Saudi Arabia

Recent visits by the leaders of India and Saudi Arabia

  • Visit by Prince: The visit of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister then, to New Delhi in February 2019
  • PM Modis visit to Saudi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Riyadh in October of the same year are two watershed moments in our journey of strategic ties.

Outcome of such visits

  • Number of MoU’s for multiple sectors: During these visits, both nations concluded a number of MoUs for multiple sectors including energy, civil aviation, security, defence production, regulation of medical products, strategic petroleum reserves, small and medium scale industries, and the training of diplomats in our respective academies.
  • Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) and working group: These two high-level visits anchored the historic formation of Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) at the leadership level. The SPC also saw the formation of working groups in multiple sectors significant to both nations.
  • Comprehensive review of agreements and new opportunities: Since 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India have taken a comprehensive review of the agreements and have explored opportunities to work together.

Saudi Arabia

Energy security and Bilateral trade between the two

  • Trade extended to other sectors apart from energy: While our ties stem from energy security, over the years they have percolated into many other sectors, including pharma, IT and telecommunications. The Kingdom alone accounts for 18 per cent of India’s crude oil import.
  • India is the second largest trading partner: Saudi Arabia is also the fourth largest trading partner of India while India is the second largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia with our bilateral trade close to $43 billion.
  • Conducive business environment in the Kingdom: A number of leading Indian companies have also set up a base in Saudi Arabia, signifying the conducive business environment in the Kingdom.
  • Joint ventures signifies trust and strong relationship: There are close to 750 Indian companies registered as joint ventures or 100 per cent owned companies based in Saudi Arabia, further indicating the strong relationship and trust between the nations.
  • Huge investment via Public Investment fund: Since the formation of our SPC, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has made investments of about $2.8 billion in digital and retail sectors of India. Similarly, Indian investments in Saudi Arabia have also reached $2 billion which are distributed amongst different sectors.
  • Shared vision of the two: Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its 13 vision realisation programmes are closely aligned with India’s flagship initiatives of Make in India, Start-up India, Smart Cities, Clean India, and Digital India. Both economies have seen robust growth in the last decade.
  • Close cooperation in important fields: Both nations have now been working closely together in important fields to achieve mutual and strategic objectives. This was in part achieved by allocating funds to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI), The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), and other international and regional health organisations and programmes.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • Economic and social reforms: Under the aegis of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to transform its economy and society. Saudi Arabia is undergoing path-breaking economic and social reforms. The Kingdom has been working towards fostering its growing investment sector that will stimulate the economy.
  • Cultural investment: The Kingdom, as part of Vision 2030, has also been investing in its culture with events such as the Red Sea Film Festival, which is dedicated to celebrating excellence in cinema and fostering the resurgent creative energy of Saudi and Arab filmmakers.
  • Investment for sustainable infrastructure: The launch of the Events Investment Fund (EIF) by HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to develop a sustainable infrastructure for the culture, tourism, entertainment, and sports sectors across the Kingdom. The fund seeks to develop world-class sustainable infrastructure including indoor arenas, art galleries, theatres, conference centres, horse-racing tracks, auto racing tracks, and other facilities across the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia

Way ahead

  • The opportunities presented under Vision 2030 can be leveraged by India to invest in the Kingdom.
  • With India assuming the G20 presidency, it paves the way for the perfect opportunity to sustain meaningful dialogue around accelerated and inclusive growth while achieving Sustainable Development Goals as the global economy navigates through the post-Covid era.


  • Amidst current global circumstances, India continues to successfully manoeuvre itself towards greater economic progress, built on strong foundations of sustainability and a thriving local community a feat and vision that it shares with its close partner Saudi Arabia. As India celebrates its 74th Republic Day with a vision of progress and prosperity, strengthening collaboration between India and Saudi Arabia will drive both economies and promote peace and stability in the region and the world.

Mains question

Q Discuss the key developments in the strategic relationship between Saudi Arabia and India. Highlight the growing bilateral trade.

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