Editorial in The Times of India
Jul 6, 2012
Coming in the wake of the recent arrest and extradition of 26/11 accused Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, Saudi Arabia's detention of yet another suspected terrorist, Fasih Mohammed - wanted in terror plots in Delhi and Bangalore - highlights a growing counterterrorism relationship. This not only represents a major diplomatic victory for India, but also vindicates a strategic shift in Saudi foreign policy. Traditionally, New Delhi has bracketed Riyadh with Islamabad, tempering hopes of a dynamic bilateral partnership, especially on the terror front. But current geopolitical realities appear to have aligned Indian and Saudi interests. US exploitation of shale gas has meant that it requires less energy imports from Saudi Arabia than before, positioning India as one of the principal buyers of Saudi oil. Riyadh's boosting of ties with New Delhi can also be read in the context of its efforts to isolate Tehran, as the latter engages in a nuclear stand-off with western and Arab states.
Moreover, Riyadh is hardly comfortable with growing evidence of links between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaida, when the latter's principal target happens to be the Saudi monarchy. Islamabad has long seen Riyadh as an all-weather friend and an ideological mentor. However, despite its best efforts it couldn't prevent the Saudi authorities from deporting Ansari to India. A growing Indian-Saudi relationship provides New Delhi the opportunity to use Riyadh's good offices to persuade Islamabad to make a strategic shift away from supporting jihadi outfits operating from its soil, and give peace a chance instead. Given the growing problems in Islamabad's relationship with Washington, it runs the risk of being completely isolated in the international community unless it can break away from supporting terror groups.