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Upcoming visit of Saudi Crown Prince to expand Saudi-India relations

New Delhi: The upcoming visit of the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to India is set to expand and diversify the relationship between the two countries.

The visit of the crown prince comes at a time when India is assuming the Presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) for one year starting from December 2022.

Saudi Arabia, at present, is attempting to establish its image beyond an energy exporter and is bound to see the advantages of engaging with India on several levels.

The statement from Saudi’s Investment Minister, Khalid al-Falih, saying “We are the biggest economy; we are the geopolitical capital of the region”, neatly encapsulates the dream the Kingdom is sowing for its coming years.

The foundation of Saudi-India relations lies in their long historical and cultural ties. This relationship continued to prosper from ancient times through the medieval era to modern times. It strengthened when a group of Arab merchants took permanent settlements on the eastern coast of India at Malabar in Kerala and Gujarat in the 7th century. This opened a much broader landscape where cultural, architectural and traditional diffusion took place.

The trade linkages were primarily responsible for cultural and artistic transmissions blending India and the Arab World into an everlasting relationship. By the year 1000 AD, commercial ties between Arabia and southern India were thriving. Before the development of European imperialist powers, Arab traders had a monopoly on the spice trade between India and Europe.

With the establishment of the Delhi sultanate and the coming of Mughal rule in the Indian subcontinent, relations with the Arab World grew more robust. The cultural exchange, synthesis and dialogue between the Indian subcontinent and Arab World forged relations among scholars and philosophers beyond their own borders. This led to the creation of a cosmos of knowledge serving as the beacon of hope for the generations to come.

The Muslim rulers of India were great patrons of art. They brought with them significant impressions of the Islamic style of art. New designs and new modes of construction like spherical domes, arches, tall minarets, open courtyards, pillared caves, huge walls etc. were introduced in architectural creations following the Islamic style. There is a long list of beautiful Islamic architectural heritage in India including Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Char Minar and so on,

The Arabic language and its literature began to spread and take root across India through the efforts of Arab and Indian men who had embraced Islam. They strove to disseminate the Arabic language and its learning all over the country.

The rich literature and medical system of the two countries have been synthesized since times immemorial. The Arab-Persian body of medical knowledge, known as the Unani School of Medicine, remains influential. Unani (Greco-Arab medicine) is an ancient medical tradition that has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome and was developed under Muslims in the Middle East and was brought to the Indian subcontinent around the 10th century. It is based on the principles of the Greek physician Galen and developed by the Arab philosopher Avicenna (A.D. 980-1037).

The Muslim rulers were great lovers of music. So they openly patronized the growth of music and musicians in the country. During this period Islamic music came in close contact with Indian classical music. From this synthesis, a number of new musical genres and instruments came into existence.

Moreover, due to the age-old cultural connection, Indian pilgrims go to Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in large numbers and the government of India promotes it.

Saudi Arabia also values Indian culture. In 2021, an MoU on Yoga Cooperation was signed between the Saudi Ministry of Sports and India’s Ministry of AYUSH, which paved the way for the establishment of formal Yoga standards and courses in the Kingdom, marking the first time such standards were implemented by any country in the Gulf region.

The robust 2.8 million diasporas, employed primarily in hospitality and mining industries, is the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom. India’s cultural similarities such as religion, and geographical proximity have made the Kingdom a preferred destination for Indians looking for employment opportunities in countries outside of India.

The active role of the Indian diaspora is growing as Saudi Arabia is shifting its focus on developing both the entertainment and tourism sectors. The film industry may present a platform of soft power, especially given that the Indian film industry has registered enormous growth and is the fastest emerging multilingual industry in India, accommodating to the Saudi audience.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad Bin Salman’s official visit to Pakistan has reportedly been postponed, ARY News reported citing a Foreign Ministry official, however, the reason for the postponement has not been specified.

The Saudi Prince was scheduled to visit Pakistan on November 21. Pakistan’s government was optimistic about the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit despite the political turmoil in the country.

According to ARY citing the sources, Crown Prince will directly visit Indonesia to attend G20 Summit.