Saudi Arabia and the South Asia Region
This past week’s visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Sultan to India and Pakistan will bring a new dimension to the politics of the South Asia region. This was the first visit for the Prince which promised enhanced relationships, most notably through the potential investment of billions of dollars to the region.
With Pakistan, a $10 billion deal was signed to develop an oil refinery and in India, a $100 billions of investment opportunities over the next few years were announced. Pakistan and India are of strategic importance to the Saudis. Pakistan has been a historical ally of Saudi Arabia in its attempt to balance Iran’s growing power while India has the potential to be an abundant market for Saudi goods.
The relationship between the Saudis with India and Pakistan might now be at a high point, relations between India and Pakistan are at a low point, following the Pulwama attack which claimed the life of 40 Indian soldiers in Kashmir. The Jaish-e-Mohammad, a terrorist group which is making a resurgence in the Kashmir valley claimed responsibility for this violence.
However, India and Pakistan have traded allegations with India suggesting that Pakistan is the “nerve centre of terrorism” and calling for the international community to “isolate” Pakistan, Pakistan in return said that India has no evidence of Pakistani involvement. Meanwhile Prime Minister Modi has promised a “crushing response”. This is all the more concerning with both countries possessing nuclear weapons, elevating the potential scale of the conflict. With the Indian elections looming, there is further scope for all political parties to over politicize these attacks, as well.
This changing dynamic of power relations further complicates the intricate relationships between countries in the region with their foreign big brothers. In the face of uncertainty over America’s traditional support and leadership in the region, India and Japan have developed deeper relations in an effort to balance against their common challenge, China. China’s reach has expanded significantly in the region with economic investment in the region with initiatives such as One Belt One Road (OBOR) and Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Hostilities in the region are high, and the next few weeks will be crucial.
Image Credit: CC by Saudi Arabia India/ Wikimedia Commons