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Manudev Jain asked: What is there for Saudi Arabia in the India-Saudi partnership, and what is there for India, besides oil?

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  • Gulshan Dietl replies: Saudi Arabia is a unique country at least in two specific details. One, it possesses more than a quarter of the global oil reserves and has been the largest oil producer for over half-a-century and, more importantly, it is the only country with a spare production capacity. Two, the holiest Islamic shrines are located in Makkah and Medina, placing the country in the epicentre of the Muslim sacred space. In economic terms, oil is the largest component in India-Saudi Arabia relations. One-fourth of India’s oil imports come from Saudi Arabia, making it the fourth largest trading partner for India and India is the fifth largest market for the Saudi exports. The trade between the two stands at $36 billion annually. Nearly two million Indians work in Saudi Arabia, and 136,000 Indians visit Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj every year.

    The Saudis are keen to cooperate with India in educational, research and technological fields. We have agreed to set up institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia as also to provide educational opportunities for Saudi students in India. There are Memoranda of Understanding between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation, the Indian Institute of Science and the King Saud University, the Indian Space Research Organisation and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and so on.

    Since last year, there are moves to develop cooperation between the defence establishments of both the countries. Last year, the Saudis deported Abu Jundal, who was wanted in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, making counter terrorism a key area of cooperation between the two countries.