Trade, manpower and political interaction have been the dominant factors in India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, with the import of oil being a major component.
India views Saudi Arabia as an important country with which it can do business and forge security ties in order to deal with terrorism and piracy.
Diplomatically, Saudi Arabia could be a gateway for India into the wider Arab and Islamic world.
On the other hand, the Kingdom equally attaches great significance to its relations with India.
Saudi Arabia has reciprocated India’s initiatives relating to issues of mutual interest. It is time for both countries to work toward building a strong strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met with the then Crown Prince Salman, while attending the G-20 Summit in Australia.
The two leaders discussed a range of bilateral, regional and international issues during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.
This was the first high-level interaction between India and Saudi Arabia after Modi came to power winning a huge mandate in the general elections last year.
But, the Kingdom and India have been traditional allies for decades together.
The two countries enjoy cordial and friendly relations, reflecting the centuries-old economic and socio-cultural ties. Indo-Saudi economic relations have shown remarkable growth with bilateral trade registering a three-fold increase in the last five years.
Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest trade partner of India and the bilateral trade was $48.75 billion in the financial year 2013-2014.
 The bilateral relations are historical as for centuries traders and sailors from India have been coming to Saudi Arabia for bilateral exchanges.
The bilateral ties got reinforced and strengthened over a period of time. Now, the two countries enjoy multifaceted relations reflecting the centuries-old economic and socio cultural ties. In fact, the two countries established their diplomatic relations in 1947, which was followed by high-level visits from both sides as King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud visited India in 1955.
That royal visit was reciprocated by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who visited the Kingdom in 1956.
Over the years, the leadership of the two countries displayed a strong commitment to further enhance the historical bonds of friendship as Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz visited India in 1959 and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited the Kingdom in 1982 and their visit further boosted the bilateral relations.
However, it was the historic visit of the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to India in 2006, which resulted in signing the Delhi Declaration imparting a fresh momentum to the bilateral relationship as the visit provided the road map for cooperation in all fields of mutual interest.
The reciprocal visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 resulting in the signing the Riyadh Declaration heralded a new era of strategic partnership focusing on political, economic, security and defense areas comprehensively.
Since then the two countries have made concerted efforts toward significant progress in each of these areas.
Moreover, the two countries have maintained regular exchange of bilateral visits at all levels in the recent years. To this end, the then Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier minister of defense, now the custodian of the two holy mosques visited India in February 2014 and met with the Indian leadership to enhance bilateral cooperation. He also signed a historic defense pact.
Saudi Arabia and India have forged closer ties in the manpower sector. Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih also visited India from Jan. 1-4, 2014, in order to formalize a comprehensive labor agreement and for signing the Agreement on Labor Cooperation for Domestic Service Workers Recruitment.
From the Indian side, P Chidambaram, the then finance minister visited the Kingdom on Jan. 27-28, 2014 for the 10th joint commission meeting (JCM) and met with the then Crown Prince Salman, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the then special envoy to Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.
Importantly, India sent a high-level delegation to attend the mourning ceremony of the late King Abdullah on Jan. 25.
Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Minister of State Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, parliament member, senior journalist M.J. Akbar and a number of senior government officials visited Riyadh to offer condolences on the demise of King Abdullah.
They met with King Salman, Crown Prince Muqrin, deputy premier, Prince Mohammed bin Naif, second deputy premier and minister of interior, and the people of the Kingdom.
In the manpower sector, Indians represent the largest number of foreign workers in the Kingdom.
They are a strong 2.8 million community living across the Kingdom as one of the most preferred community here due to their expertise, sense of discipline, and law abiding and peace loving nature.
Their huge number in the Kingdom is the largest concentration of Indian passport holders anywhere in the world. Their contribution toward the massive development of India with highest contribution in remittances is well acknowledged.
Moreover, the Haj and Umrah pilgrimage is an important aspect of India-Saudi Arabia relations and the Indian government has always appreciated the efforts on the part of the Kingdom to put in place excellent arrangements to ensure comfortable and hassle-free Haj and Umrah experience. According to the Embassy of India, about 135,000 Indians visited the Kingdom during Haj 2013 to perform the annual pilgrimage and even more Indians performed Umrah.
 In 2014, a total of 1,36,020 Indian pilgrims performed Haj, and these numbers are after the cut in the regular quota due to the ongoing expansion work in Makkah and Madinah, the two holy cities. Moreover, Indo-Saudi economic and commercial relations have been growing steadily in the recent. Notably, the import of crude oil by India forms a major component of bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia remaining India’s largest supplier of crude oil, accounting for almost 19 percent of its total oil requirements.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the source of 8.12 percent of India’s global imports. For Saudi Arabia, India is the 5th largest market for its exports, accounting for 8.3 percent of its global exports. Notably, Indian companies have been expanding their footprint in Saudi Arabia as many of them have won major projects across the Kingdom. Recently, Essar, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Wipro Arabia, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) have bagged prestigious projects in the Kingdom.
Furthermore, in November 2013, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) announced the launching of its R&D Center in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) with an investment of over $ 100 million.
According to Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), 426 licenses were issued to Indian companies for joint ventures and 100 percent owned entities till 2010, which are expected to bring a total of $1.6 billion investment in the Kingdom.
However, given the depth and scale of the economies of the two countries, there exists vast untapped potential for expanding business opportunities.
Therefore, the Saudi India Business Network (SIBN) was launched last year in Riyadh for sector specific programs. 
Moreover, the Indian Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with its embassy in Riyadh have been organizing road shows in different parts of the Kingdom and a huge number of Saudi nationals are visiting India for tourism purposes, especially to avail the benefits offered by medical tourism, which combines the concept of physical well-being with opportunity to visit different parts of India.

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