The bonhomie between the leaders of India and Saudi Arabia would have come as a shock to those who tour global capitals so as to paint present-day Bharat, i.e., India in the most unflattering of colours. While a galaxy of world leaders came to Delhi for the G20 Summit and joined in a successful outcome, only Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was given the honour of staying back for a State Visit. It was a welcome move. The warm personal chemistry between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was apparent to viewers of television, and among the defining images of a historic day was the handshake and smiles exchanged between President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, with their mutual friend, Prime Minister Modi, smilingly clasping both their hands with his own. There was a lot of media buzz internationally about the claim made by Beijing that it was Xi who brought Iran and Saudi Arabia together, but the significance of the MBS-Biden handshake seems to have been played down by the same outlets. The fact is that it was the intemperate manner in which candidate Biden referred to MBS during his campaign for the US Presidency, followed by that awkward fist bump at their subsequent meeting that led key advisors to MBS to conclude that personal feelings had trumped strategic interests in the White House, so that it was time to display a warmth towards the PRC. The fact is that apart from purchases of Saudi oil, the PRC shares no strategic interest with Riyadh, whereas India and Washington do in abundant measure. Bypassing PRC-created blocks in access, the India-West Asia-Europe transit route has been agreed upon by the leaders of the countries involved. The new route will prove a gateway to prosperity, in contrast to the BRI, which almost everywhere is simply a road to fiscal ruin of the countries unwise enough to have signed on to the project. The dollar-denominated BRI is simply a means to enable Beijing to get control of assets in the participating countries, besides serving as a funnel for the settlement of CCP loyalists throughout the routes taken by the BRI, in furtherance of the future plans of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping to reduce the status of the countries participating in the BRI to that of tributary states of the Peoples Republic of China. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an enormous soft power influence across the world, being the country whose Al Saud family are the Protectors of the Two Holy Sites of Islam, Mecca and Medina. MBS is the first Al Saud to delink the ruling family from Wahhabism, a philosophy at odds with the consistent message of benevolence, compassion and mercy repeated in the teachings revealed to Prophet Muhammad, who was himself born in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Backing from the Al Sauds, combined with support from the US in particular, enabled Wahhabism to spread across the world, an outreach that is now getting slowed down as a consequence of the wisdom of the present leadership of both the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia. Both realize that the young population of their countries need modern education and a moderate ethos, and are working to ensure that. In the task of building their societies and economies so as to succeed in a world where fossil fuels will no longer be abundantly used, India has the ability to play a significant role. Under the rubric of the agreements signed between India and Saudi Arabia, subjects such as desalinisation are prominent. Success in low cost conversion of sea water into potable water would benefit the entire world and relieve it of the shortage of water that is proving to be such a curse in so many countries. MBS is fully cognizant of the need for friend shoring, and is marking out substantial chunks of investment for utilisation in India. Efforts to ensure that technologies be developed that would generate cheap and clean energy are on the anvil, as is a ramping up of cooperation in sectors such as health and education. The population of citizens in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are even younger than the proportion of youth in the population of India, and these young people need to be empowered so as to become productive citizens. Again a task in which collaboration with India would create powerful synergies. There are those in politics who constantly moan about what they believe is the dystopian nature of the world, and there are those who seek to improve the world and remove the deficiencies that exist. The first lot make a situation worse, the second makes it better. By the way in which India under Prime Minister Modi and Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince MBS has begun to work together, it is clear that the partnership that will result will enhance the quality of life of the citizens of both countries, besides making the rest of the world a better place. The two countries have become natural allies, and in the course of their joint activity, can ensure a much better future, including through the planned corridor bringing closer together India, West Asia and Europe.