In a remarkable illustration of harnessing multilateral platforms for the betterment of the world, Saudi Arabia, India, the European Union (EU), and the United States have embarked on a transformative venture aimed at boosting trade and enhancing connectivity. Crown Prince Salman, while participating in the G-20 summit, made an exhilarating announcement — an economic corridor that would seamlessly bridge India, the Middle East, and Europe. This monumental initiative garnered unanimous support, notably from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who emphasized the pivotal role of connectivity in propelling trade growth. The collaborative spirit reached its zenith as this quartet concurrently unveiled the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) alongside the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.
A Foundational Step Toward Economic Integration
The revelation of these dual initiatives, a testament to the efficacy of international cooperation, unfolded as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman graced the G-20 summit with his presence. The days that followed brimmed with promise, with a state visit to India by the Saudi Crown Prince looming on the horizon. The fervor for these initiatives was palpable during the launch event, featuring luminaries such as President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. President Joe Biden, President Macron of France, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Crown Prince Bin Salman, in his succinct remarks at the event, expressed eager anticipation for the integration of the initiative and the Economic Corridor Project. He extended his gratitude to those who played instrumental roles in taking this foundational step toward establishing an economically vital corridor.
Bilateral Deliberations and the Strategic Partnership Council
The state visit by the Saudi Crown Prince to India was marked by bilateral delegation-level meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Together, they co-chaired the First Leaders’ Meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council. This significant meeting provided an invaluable opportunity to review the progress achieved under the two Ministerial Committees of the Strategic Partnership Council, namely, the Committee on Political, Security, Social, and Cultural Cooperation, and the Committee on Economy and Investments Cooperation. The expanding military-to-military and multilateral cooperation between Saudi Arabia and India were conspicuous indicators of a deepening and increasingly robust relationship.
Saudi Arabia’s Elevated Role on the Global Stage
Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning international prominence was further underscored when, alongside the United Arab Emirates, it was accorded the status of a new permanent member within the BRICS grouping—an inclusive development that even welcomed the participation of former rival Iran. This diplomatic expansion signifies Saudi Arabia’s willingness to engage with countries across the geopolitical spectrum and its growing influence on the global stage.
Countering the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with an ‘Infrastructure Accord’
Michael Kugelman, the South Asia Institute Director of the Wilson Center in Washington DC, alluded to the possibility of an “infrastructure accord” taking shape among the U.S., India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE on the sidelines of the G-20 summit earlier. According to him, this accord could prove to be a game-changer, profoundly enhancing connectivity between India and the Middle East. Moreover, it holds the potential to serve as a robust countermeasure to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Showcasing ‘Vision 2030’
The Saudi Crown Prince’s visit conveniently coincided with a three-day event designed to showcase significant projects and initiatives under Saudi Arabia’s visionary “Vision 2030.” This event, meticulously organized by the Saudi Ministry of Media in collaboration with NEOM, the Saudi Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Sports, and the Saudi Tourism Authority, bore the apt title of “Media Oasis.” It aimed to present the vast potential of ‘Red Sea International,’ spotlighting the leading tourism destinations comprising mountains and seaside resorts along the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. In addition, the exhibition featured dedicated sections designed to highlight Saudi Arabia’s thriving sports sector and the immense energy potential intrinsic to its burgeoning economy.
A History of Collaborative Success
This state visit marked the second occasion on which the Crown Prince had visited India, with the previous visit taking place in February 2019. In October 2019, Prime Minister Modi reciprocated the visit, culminating in the establishment of the Strategic Partnership Council—a testament to the deepening ties between the two nations. India and Saudi Arabia have consistently cooperated across multiple formats to address pressing global challenges. Notably, Saudi authorities provided extensive support to the Indian air force and navy in evacuating Indian citizens stranded amidst the civil war in Sudan. The role played by Saudi naval and air support in safely transporting Indian citizens from conflict-torn Sudanese cities to Jeddah and Port Said exemplifies the strength of their collaborative endeavors.
A Flourishing Economic Partnership
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India currently stands as Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner. This bilateral trade relationship has reached remarkable heights, with trade between the two nations surging to an impressive $52.75 billion during the fiscal year 2022-2023. This burgeoning economic partnership underscores the mutual benefits arising from their collaboration, highlighting the promising trajectory of their bilateral trade relations.
The burgeoning economic partnership between Saudi Arabia and India is poised to play a pivotal role in incorporating Saudi Arabia into the global connectivity domain. As Saudi Arabia and India continue to strengthen their economic ties, the significance of these collaborative efforts on the global stage cannot be overstated. The platform for these initiatives, the G20 summit, serves as a catalyst for discussions and actions that promote economic growth, connectivity, and international cooperation.
G20 as the Catalyst
The G20 summit, an assembly of the world’s major economies, is an ideal platform for fostering economic partnerships and connectivity initiatives. It provides a unique opportunity for nations to come together, share ideas, and launch collaborative projects that transcend borders. In the case of Saudi Arabia and India, their economic partnership, which is flourishing on the sidelines of the G20 summit, holds the promise of greater regional and global connectivity.
Mutual Benefits and Beyond
This remarkable economic partnership between Saudi Arabia and India is not merely a testament to their bilateral cooperation but also an opportunity for global integration. The mutually beneficial nature of their trade relations paves the way for increased economic interdependence, which can have a cascading effect on global connectivity.
Incorporating Saudi Arabia into the Global Connectivity Domain
Saudi Arabia’s growing economic ties with India represent a stepping stone toward its broader integration into the global connectivity domain. The economic corridors and infrastructure initiatives announced during the G20 summit serve as the mechanisms through which Saudi Arabia can actively participate in global connectivity projects.
Global Connectivity: A Shared Vision
The growing economic partnership between Saudi Arabia and India is indicative of their shared vision for enhanced connectivity, not only within their bilateral relationship but also on the global stage. These nations recognize that connectivity is a driving force for economic growth and international cooperation.
The launch of the economic corridor connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe, in tandem with the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, serves as a potent demonstration of the potential inherent in multilateral platforms when harnessed for the greater good. This collaborative effort, supported resoundingly by Saudi Arabia, India, the EU, and the U.S., constitutes a momentous stride toward fortifying global trade and enhancing connectivity on a worldwide scale. As these initiatives continue to evolve and take concrete shape, they hold the promise of reshaping regional and international economic landscapes, unlocking doors to expanded trade, elevated connectivity, and a brighter, more prosperous future for all stakeholders involved.
– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).
Published in The Geopolitics [Link]