While most of India is transfixed at the regal visit of American President Barrack Obama, in quite corner of South Block on Friday, a group of officials were assessing the politico-economic impact of the demise of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Though, his successor, Salman bin Abdul Aziz (79) vowed not to engineer any major policy shifts, diplomats in world capitals including India are keeping their fingers crossed. Alongwith the United States, Saudi Arabia is also at the centre of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises of ”ache din” (good days), not only because it is instrumental in keeping the oil prices low, but also hosting 28 lakh Indian expatriates, source of a large chunk of foreign remittances to fill the coffers of the country.

While most of India is transfixed at the regal visit of American President Barrack Obama, in quite corner of South Block on Friday, a group of officials were assessing the politico-economic impact of the demise of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Though, his successor, Salman bin Abdul Aziz (79) vowed not to engineer any major policy shifts, diplomats in world capitals including India are keeping their fingers crossed. Alongwith the United States, Saudi Arabia is also at the centre of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises of ”ache din” (good days), not only because it is instrumental in keeping the oil prices low, but also hosting 28 lakh Indian expatriates, source of a large chunk of foreign remittances to fill the coffers of the country. Knowing full well the impact of the demise, Prime Minster Narendra Modi in a condolence message said he was “saddened” by the passing away of King Abdullah who has left a lasting impact on his country. Few days ago, Modi had telephoned Crown Prince Salman, and inquired about the health of the King, who is also Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Because of King Abdullah’s policies, crude was selling less than $50 a barrel in international market. When Modi came to power it was costing India as much as $115 a barrel, almost double. He had refused to cut production, a possible dream scenario for the Indian economy which relies heavily on energy imports. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil, is refusing to cut production to undermine US efforts to claim a share of this market with American shale oil and also to to inflict pain on Iran, its traditional rival for influence in the Gulf. Though, everybody here had expected a smooth transition, but new King Salman, who was also deputy Prime Minister and defence minister is also turning 80 soon and suffers from several ailments. Therefore, it is believed that power will rest in the hands of Prince Muqrin as second deputy Prime Minister and deputy Crown Prince, who amongst the 45 sons of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, is the youngest. He has headed the Saudi intelligence agency Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah,, and is believed quite close to Pakistani politicians. He was replaced in 2013 by Bandar bin Sultan, for his approach towards some sensitive issues, particularly holding a different view point on handling Iran and tough outlooks against Shia uprisings in the Eastern province. Over past decade both countries had set the momentum in relations with King Abdullah visiting India in 2006. The visit was reciprocated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010. Last year in September then Intelligence Bureau chief Syed Asif Ibrahim visited Riyadh to seek cooperation to work against ISIS and to seek Saudi help to keep close tabs on Haj pilgrims to prevent them entering Syria or Iraq to join any terrorist groups. Experts here believe a stronger partnership with a key regional player like Saudi Arabia also helps to invalidate Islamabad’s influence in the region. Pakistan in past has successfully mobilised Gulf support in conflicts with India, which though over the years has moderated but not ended.

Continue reading here: 

Saudi Arabia at centre of Narendra Modi’s promise of ‘acche din’