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555 words - May 29, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has visited Saudi Arabia on a bilateral invitation from his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The visit was originally scheduled earlier this year but for various reasons, said India's Foreign Ministry, it had to be rescheduled. The two officials talked about energy, bilateral cooperation, counterterrorism and other issues related to the development of investment and trade between India and the Arab world. Mr Khurshid also had "fruitful meetings" with Crown Prince Salman, Prince Muqrin, Interior Minister Mohammed bin Naif and Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.
The Indian diplomacy's chief told Siraj Wahad of Arab News that Saudi Arabia counts among India's most valued strategic partners. As a partner in "peace and prosperity", India "considers Saudi Arabia a center of stability in the region," and it is especially important since "the security and stability of the Gulf region and that of the Indian Subcontinent are interlinked," explained Mr Khurshid.
India remains firm on its principle that no external interests or country should dictate the future of Syria, the Minister underlined. "Our objectives (in Syria) are in line with Saudi Arabia. There must be free expression of the aspirations of the people and there must be an immediate cessation of violence," said Mr Khurshid. "We support the UN effort and we support the Geneva effort," added Mr Khurshid, by these words showing somehow that India's stance on Syria seems closer to the West's than to Russia's or China's.
Reminding that India has differences with Iran on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - India became a nuclear-weapon state in 1974 -, Mr Khurshid explained that if both Saudi Arabia and Iran are important for India's energy security, the former shares a "natural relationship" while the latter shares a "natural friendship" with India. Though India voted against Iran at the United Nations (UN), India supports Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. And given "Saudis say that they shouldn't weaponize, and the Iranians themselves say that they don't want to weaponize," What is the difference? Mr Khurshid asked.
Nevertheless, whatever India shares with other countries - relationship or friendship - Afghanistan remains the above all top priority of India's foreign policy, in the framework of what it theorized as "the immediate neighborhood". And Saudi Arabia, like other Middle Eastern countries, can play a positive role towards the stabilization and the development of Afghanistan, said Mr Khurshid.
Two previous declarations have been very relevant as for India's foreign policy in the Middle East. Those are the Riyadh Declaration which was issued when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Riyadh in 2010, and the Delhi Declaration which goes back to the visit of the Saudi King Abdullah when he came to New Delhi in 2006. Though Mr Khurshid's visit to Saudi Arabia was his first as India's Foreign Minister, it brought relevant information about how India integrated the Middle East in its global foreign policy.
Summing up, the Arab world is relevant because it concentrates many of the current international disputes and because it remains an important provider of energy supplies. However, when taking India's foreign policy globally, the Middle East (Turkey + the Arab World + Iran) seems secondary when compared with the primary relevance of South Asia, China and East Asia for India's interests abroad.
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