Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Growing ties Between India-Saudi Arabia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India- Saudi Arabia relations

Saudi Arabia


  • The presidency, which India has recently assumed for the period between 1 December 2022 and 30 November 2023, will likely open more avenues for cooperation on multiple fronts with countries like Saudi Arabia, a key Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, also a member state of G20.

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Saudi Arabia

India-Saudi Arabia Relationship

  • Fourth largest trading partner: Since the last few years, India-Saudi Arabia relations have become comprehensive and robust, with the kingdom not only becoming New Delhi’s fourth largest trading partner but also an important collaborator in the joint combat against all forms of terrorism, money laundering, and terror financing.
  • 18% of India’s energy Imports: It is noteworthy that the bilateral trade in the fiscal year 2021-2022 stood at US$42.8 billion, and the kingdom alone accounts for 18 percent of India’s energy import, which reflects the significance of the country from the standpoint of New Delhi’s energy and economic security calculus.
  • Collaboration on defence corridor: Simultaneously, military-security and defence cooperation have also gained momentum, which has been triggered by a certain commonality of security threats and challenges, and the interests of the respective governments to collaborate in the defence industrial sector (within the ambit of their military modernisation programmes).
  • Non-oil areas of cooperation: The ties between the two countries, now, are not only concentrated on the oil-energy trade alone (as it has been the pattern) but both sides have started to explore the possibilities of working together on domains such as renewable energy, climate change, healthcare, food security, education, technology, etc.

Partnership in Green and clean energy

  • Collaboration with Indian companies: In November 2020, Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, called on foreign investors to “invest on their own” or to collaborate with Indian companies in the country’s green energy sector.
  • Reducing dependency on hydrocarbon: Similarly, Saudi Arabia, striving to reduce its dependency on a hydrocarbon-based economy, is investing in the same sector.
  • Saudi Vision 2030 programme: In line with its Saudi Vision 2030 programme, it launched (in 2021) the Saudi Green Initiative which works on “increasing Saudi Arabia’s reliance on clean energy, offsetting emissions, and protecting the environment.
  • Ambitious targets by both country: Riyadh, ushering in a new era of energy diplomacy, is building partnerships with countries that have similar ambitions. This, to a great extent, has facilitated the need to expand cooperation with India in the renewable energy sphere. While the Indian government works towards generating 450 Gigawatt about 60 percent of electricity using renewable and clean sources, Saudi Arabia also aims at about 50 per cent, both to be achieved by the year 2030.

Saudi Arabia

India-Saudi Arabia cooperation in health sector and during Covid19

  • Cooperation with west Asia region: India has stepped up its healthcare-related engagements with the wider West Asian region, and, particularly in matters related to the production of vaccines, joint medical researches, exchange of best-fit practices, and so on.
  • Healthcare professionals to Saudi Arabia: During the peak of the aforementioned pandemic, the Indian government assisted its Saudi counterpart in their fight against this outbreak, mainly by dispatching hundreds of Indian healthcare professionals.
  • Vaccine acceptancy: Saudi Arabia was also one of the few countries that recognised “Serum Institute of India’s Covishield as an approved COVID-19 vaccine” for any travellers who wanted to enter the kingdom.
  • MoU on health and medical products: Now, what could act as a catalyst in elevating the interactions from the existing level is the Indo-Saudi Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on health and medical products regulations that were signed during the 2019 visit of Modi to Riyadh.

Cooperation in Food Security

  • Investment by Saudi and UAE: It could be noted that, in 2019, to act as a safeguard from any food insecurity, UAE and Saudi Arabia GCC states decided to invest in India’s organic and food processing industries.
  • Win-win situation in food cooperation: With India’s expertise in the field of crop production and overall agricultural activities, and also being a net exporter of agricultural commodities (especially rice), strengthening of partnerships could prove to be highly beneficial for the populace of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and other GCC countries that continue to depend on external sources for their food security, mostly owing to the lack of fertile soil.

Saudi Arabia


  • While India-Saudi Arabia ties are expected to grow further, there also exists a potential for collaboration beyond this bilateral engagement. This is precisely because, in the emerging international order, there is also a growing call for a collective response to the multidimensional crises the world is facing today.

Mains Question

Q. Briefly describe the India-Saudi Arabia relationship? How both countries are collaborating on clean energy and food security?

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