India is reaching out to Saudi Arabia at the highest levels to sensitize the leadership in Riyadh about the government’s August 5 decision on Kashmir.
National security advisor Ajit Doval traveled to Riyadh on Tuesday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and hold discussions on bilateral and regional issues. Doval’s visit comes after Pakistani PM Imran Khan stopped over in Riyadh to enlist Mohammed bin Salman’s support for Pakistan’s Kashmir ‘cause’.
Doval’s visit is a signal from New Delhi of the importance given to ties and sentiments of the Saudi leadership. The NSA’s presence is significant not merely because he is the highest-ranking emissary of the prime minister. He has personally spearheaded the government action in Kashmir after Parliament voted to de-operationalize Article 370 of the Constitution.
Doval will emphasize to the Saudi leadership on how the move was an internal one, how the whole idea has been to integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country by allowing all laws and benefits applicable to the country in that state.
Pakistan’s diplomatic exertions in the past few weeks brought it support from countries like China, Malaysia, and Turkey. Interestingly, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have played a much more neutral role, despite a statement by the Kashmir contact group of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Doval’s visit comes after Saudi Arabia’s premier oil processing facility in Abqaiq suffered extensive damage by a barrage of cruise missiles and drone attacks, putting the region perilously close to conflict. Mohammed bin Salman took a restrained stand, saying any Saudi-Iran conflict (Saudi Arabia blames Iran for the attack) would be disastrous for the world economy.
India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has deepened in recent years to go beyond the energy-diaspora connect to encompass security, counter-terrorism, and defense, areas that were rarely touched in earlier times. This has transformed relations between India and the two premier Gulf powers of UAE and Saudi Arabia.