Arab-India ties

September 01, 2019


PAKISTANI media has been criticising ad nauseum Saudi Arabia and the UAE for honouring Narendra Modi with their highest civilian award. Both countries have not said anything against the atrocities by him in India-held Kashmir. The fact is that it is economics that dictates relations between the two countries and not love of religion.

The Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry office is based in Karachi, but it is barely active and has done little to strengthen teconomic relations between Islamic states.

I remember it was probably around 1979. I asked a Saudi delegate attending the OIC chambers conference held in Karachi whether they would consider investing in Pakistan because it was an Islamic country. The Saudi chamber chief’s reply was candid and unexpected.

I paraphrase his ideas: when we Saudis travel for business, we also entertain ourselves and don’t just want to travel from one Saudi Arabia to another.

India is the UAE’s second largest trade partner today, with the total non-oil trade between the two countries recorded at $35.9 billion in 2018.

The strength of this bilateral trade relationship is evident in many sectors such as oil, infrastructure development, tourism and aviation.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Modi’s latest visit to the UAE reaffirms the close relationship between the two countries Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner, after China, America and the Emirates.

Earlier this month, a deal was finalised between India’s Reliance Industries Limited and the Saudi giant, Aramco.

The Reliance Industries chief and owner Mukesh Ambani announced that Aramco had agreed to take a 20 per cent stake in Reliance’s oil refinery and chemical business at an enterprise value of $75 billion. This is among the largest foreign investments in India.

At the end of the day: it is economics, and not love for religion.

Babar Ayaz

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2019