Saudi Crown prince’s visit to India will be a landmark event, says Ambassador Ahmad Javed

Ahmad Javed, the Indian ambassador in Riyadh, said The friendly relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is deeply rooted in a shared history. (AN Photo)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Saudi Crown prince’s visit to India will be a landmark event, says Ambassador Ahmad Javed

  • Talking exclusively to Arab News at the Indian Embassy, the ambassador expressed his joy at the upcoming visit
  • Visit by the crown prince will continue the trend of increased cooperation

RIYADH: Ahmad Javed, the Indian ambassador in Riyadh, believes the visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to India will be a landmark event in the history of “our high-level bilateral engagements and they will certainly take an upward strategic direction.”

Talking exclusively to Arab News at the Indian Embassy in the Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter, the ambassador expressed his joy at the upcoming visit. “I began my posting as ambassador in Saudi Arabia with the visit of the Indian prime minister to Riyadh in April 2016, and I am happy that the visit of the Crown Prince will be my last assignment before ending my time in Saudi Arabia.”

The friendly relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is deeply rooted in a shared history that has been nurtured by personal relationships, said Javed. These links have been further strengthened by the development of trade and commercial ties.

“The historic visit by King Saud to India in 1955 and, prior to that, Crown Prince Faisal’s preparatory visit, plus the reciprocal visit by the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to the Kingdom in 1956, laid the strong foundation for our formal interactions,” he said. “The visit of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Saudi Arabia in 1982 further improved our bilateral relations.”

Such important official visits have continued, said Javed, and the relationship between the nations has evolved and developed as a result.

“In recent times, the historic visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 resulted in the signing of the ‘Delhi Declaration,’ which gave a fresh momentum to the bilateral relationship,” he said. “The visit provided the framework for cooperation in many fields of mutual interest. The reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Riyadh in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to ‘strategic partnership,’ and the ‘Riyadh Declaration,’ signed during the visit, captured the spirit of enhanced cooperation in the areas of politics, economics, security and defense.”

The relationship deepened in 2014, he added, when a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation was signed during a visit to India by King Salman, who was at that time the crown prince.

Most recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Riyadh in April 2016.

“The visit...was a turning point in our growing engagement with Saudi Arabia,” said Javed. “During the visit, a joint statement highlighting the various aspects of our relationship was issued, which involved signing a number of cooperation agreements and MoUs.”

He believes the visit by the crown prince will continue the trend of increased cooperation.

“During the visit, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will have important discussions with the president, vice president, prime minister and senior ministers of the government of India, on key areas of strategic cooperation such as science and technology, agriculture, space, security, defense, maritime, counterterrorism, plus trade and investment,” he said. “Several cooperation agreements/MoUs/programs are also expected to be finalized.”

India views Saudi Arabia as a friend and part of its “extended neighborhood,” said Javed.

“More than 7 million Indians work in the Gulf region,” he said. “Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states have been the time-tested, reliable source of our energy security. The security, stability and prosperity of the region are of great importance to us.

“We attach great priority to our friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. Our traditionally close ties are anchored in shared interests based on centuries-old economic and sociocultural ties, as well as vibrant people-to-people contacts.”

Trade and business links form an important part of the bilateral relationship, said Javed. Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trade partner and about 17 percent of India’s crude-oil requirement is supplied by the Kingdom, he explained.

“In 2017-18, India-Saudi bilateral trade increased by 9.56 percent to $27.48 billion,” said Javed. “During this period, our imports from Saudi Arabia reached $22.06 billion, an increase of 10.5 percent over the previous year. Our exports to Saudi Arabia were $5.41 billion, an increase of 5.88 percent over the previous year.”

Indian information technology companies, such as TCS, WIPRO and Tech Mahindra, work with Saudi ministries and businesses and contribute in a big way to training Saudi youth, especially women, in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, he said.

The growing cooperation between the two countries extends beyond trade and commerce.

“Defense ties received a major boost after the signing of an MoU on Defense cooperation...in February 2014,” said Javed.

“The India-Saudi Arabia Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation (JCDC) meets regularly; its fourth meeting was held in Riyadh on Jan. 2-3, 2019, and identified credible activities towards defense cooperation to further bolster the ties.

“Delegation-level exchanges take place regularly between the defense ministries of the two countries. Two groups of five officer cadets are currently undergoing training at the National Defense Academy in India. One officer is also at the prestigious National Defense College.”

India recognizes the significance of Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, said Javed, and the opportunities it offers to attract investment in India.

“The Saudi minister of energy, industry and mineral resources visited India several times during 2018 and held a series of discussions,” he said. “The Saudi oil giant, Aramco, has signed an MoU with an Indian consortium...to jointly develop the $44 billion Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Project Limited on a 50/50 basis.

“Since June 2018, Saudi (company) Al-Fanar has been constructing a 300 megawatt power project in Kutch worth $300 million, with the project expected to be completed by 2020. In October 2018, Saudi Aramco signed an MoU...with Mumbai-based GumPro to set up a drilling-fluids facility. A number of other investment projects are also being considered, including in our National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.”

The role that Indian workers play in the development and growth of the Kingdom is a source of pride, said Javed, and they play a key role in strengthening the links between the two countries.

“Saudi Arabia is home to an Indian community of more than 2.7 million,” he said. “The Kingdom has the largest number of Indian-passport holders outside the mother country. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the contributions made by Indians in the development of the Kingdom is well acknowledged and appreciated by the Saudi leadership, as well as by its people.

“I express my sincere gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for hosting this large Indian community and also for the excellent services provided by the Saudi authorities to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims from India.”

As Saudi Arabia increasingly opens up to arts and culture as part of the process of reform that is underway, there are also increasing opportunities for cultural exchange programs.

“It is a great honor that India was accorded the privilege of being the ‘Guest of Honor’ at the 32nd Janadriyah Festival, the National Festival of Heritage and Culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 2018,” said Javed.

“The cooperation extended to us, and the interest shown by the Saudi leadership, was unprecedented. Apart from formal inauguration of our pavilion by King Salman in the presence of our external affairs minster, the Indian Pavilion was also visited by a number of ministers, Shoura Council members, royal family members, senior Government officials and huge crowds of people.”

Javed believes that the relationship between the Kingdom and India will continue to thrive.

“The state visit of the crown prince to India will not only give fresh momentum to our deep-rooted cordial relations, but also take them to greater heights with a clear reflection of the enhanced importance assigned to India by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”


Saudi preacher Awad Al-Qarni: Justifier of terror

Updated 31 min 16 sec ago
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Saudi preacher Awad Al-Qarni: Justifier of terror

  • Saudi critic of Western culture laid the groundwork that turned young Muslims into violent extremists
  • Claimed modern literary works could lead to belief in falsehoods that aim to destroy Islamic teachings

For years Awad Al-Qarni, this week’s preacher of hate, used TV interviews to glorify terrorism, spread conspiracy theories and launch tirades against the West.

His radical views and dogmatic interpretation of religion was criticized in the Saudi press, on social media and by scholars.

But that did not shake his many firm convictions, one of which was that the fight against terrorism was “fabricated” by the West to colonize the East and destroy its way of life.

Born in 1957 and raised in Balqarn governorate in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Asir region, Al-Qarni went on to serve as a professor at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University.

There, long before the emergence of social media, he managed to misguide a large number of followers with his politically charged rhetoric delivered via mosque sermons and after-school programs for youths in the city of Abha.

“Despite the West’s claims of peace since the founding of the League of Nations, and subsequently the UN, the Security Council and organizations everywhere, humanity hasn’t suffered from war, destruction, colonialism, enslavement, confiscation of wealth, intervention in the affairs of nations and peoples, control over their capabilities and wealth, and the overthrow of their regimes and governments, as they suffered in the time of the domination of the West and the time of the Security Council,” Al-Qarni told the anchor of the program “Al-Malaf” on Al-Majd satellite TV channel in January 2017.


CONSPIRACY THEORIES OF AL-QARNI

The “war on terror”

• “It is one of the tools of the West through which it establishes a new era of colonialism, domination, exploitation and enslavement of peoples as much as it can, without a doubt.”

• “We’re living the biggest lie history has ever known. Many Third World leaders understood these facts and talked about them. Many realized them but few talked about them, like (Nelson) Mandela, (Fidel) Castro, Ahmadu Bello in Nigeria and King Faisal. Therefore, they were assassinated or there were attempts to assassinate them, or they became prisoners or fugitives.”

 

9/11

• “It’s in the West’s interest for (terrorism) to continue. This terrorism doesn’t pose an existential threat to the West and its countries. Three-thousand Americans were killed in a certain operation. All the accumulated evidence proves that the operation was premeditated, fabricated and calculated. ... In a nutshell, it’s in the West’s interest for terrorism to continue in Islamic countries so it can exploit and utilize it.”

 

Modernism

• “One of the ideas that has plagued the nation ... is an intellectual doctrine that seeks to destroy everything that is inherited, eliminate everything that is old and revolt against ethics, values and beliefs. This doctrine is called by its preachers and servants of its idols modernism.”


In Al-Qarni’s view, the war on terror is “one of the tools of the West through which it establishes a new era of colonialism, domination, exploitation and enslavement of peoples as much as it can, without a doubt.”

Qainan Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi political analyst, told Arab News that Al-Qarni’s arguments reflect the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose followers believe that the “West will stop meddling in the affairs of the Middle East only when it’s burned by terrorism.

“They’re certain that any campaign against terrorism threatens their plans and projects.”

That is why these preachers of hate instigated young men to go to warzones in the Middle East, Al-Ghamdi said.

“They did all that they could, through persuasion and offers of financial support, to get young men to travel to warzones and get themselves killed,” he added.

“They think that through this process, the region will end up being only for (the Brotherhood’s followers), so they can achieve their goal of seizing political power.”

Al-Qarni’s vehement opposition to the anti-terror campaign is unsurprising given that he considers Western culture and thought as racist, and based on the rejection or enslavement of the other.

“It runs in their (Westerners’) blood, no matter how they try to deny it. There’s no doubt that there are a number of thinkers, philosophers, reformers and some social strata who tried to be human … But the mainstream of Western thought and culture, represented or served by politicians who try to win them over, is a racist and exclusionary thought that seeks to eliminate others,” Al-Qarni said.

“Their dealings with the Red Indians, the indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand, the African and Muslim peoples are clear.”

In his 1998 book “Modernism in the Balance of Islam: Islamic Perspectives in Literary Modernism,” Al-Qarni identifies modernity as an imminent threat to Muslims.

“One of the ideas that has plagued the nation … is the intellectual doctrine that seeks to destroy everything that is inherited, eliminate everything that is old and revolt against ethics, values and beliefs,” he wrote. 

This doctrine, he said, is called “modernism by its preachers and servants.”

From Al-Qarni’s perspective, “modernism” is an idea that creates great and irreparable damage, and should therefore be resisted.

“Modernism is a subversive idea. The modernists present a destructive vision of the lives of people that includes all its aspects,” he wrote.

“The term ‘modernism’ is an invasion that must be confronted. The basis of modernism is reason and rationality that reject everything that the mind does not perceive.”

As a corollary, Al-Qarni said, modern literary works could lead mankind to believe in falsehoods that aim to destroy Islamic teachings.

Three years after his polemic against modernity was published, Al-Qaeda carried out the Sept. 11 attacks against the US, which left nearly 3,000 people dead and 6,000 injured, and caused damage estimated at $10 billion.

Al-Qarni said the attacks were “fabricated” — the West was exploiting terrorism in Islamic countries for its interest.

In another interview on Al-Majd TV, Al-Qarni declared that the West wanted terrorism to remain, especially because “it doesn’t threaten” Western countries.

“It’s in the West’s interest for (terrorism) to continue. This terrorism doesn’t pose an existential threat to the West and its countries,” he said.

“Three-thousand Americans were killed in a certain operation (9/11). All the accumulated evidence proves that the operation was premeditated, fabricated and calculated.”

Al-Qarni is of the view that terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom are a way for them to claim their ‘right’ to establish control over the country.  Power is their goal.

Al-Qarni asserted that it was not he who was making the claim. “Noam Chomsky said this, and recently a Western scientific engineering institute said the (twin) towers were toppled by a controlled explosion,” Al-Qarni said, falsely attributing the conspiracy theory to the American linguist and social critic.

“It’s in the West’s interest for terrorism to continue in Islamic countries so it can exploit and utilize it.”

Al-Ghamdi said such views are unsurprising given that Al-Qarni believes that acts of violent extremism by Muslims, whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad, are not really terrorism.

“Al-Qarni is of the view that terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom are a way for them to claim their ‘right’ to establish control over the country. Power is their goal,” he said. 

Al-Ghamdi added that Al-Qarni’s antipathy toward the Saudi legal system, among other institutions, is rooted in the Brotherhood’s political philosophy.

“Even though they don’t publicly say it, followers of the Brotherhood don’t recognize the Saudi judiciary,” Al-Ghamdi said.

“Their deviant thoughts and hate-filled views are in sharp contrast to our country’s fair and unbiased laws and regulations.”

In March 2017, Al-Qarni was fined SR100,000 ($27,000) and banned from writing by Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, which handles terrorism cases.

He was convicted for spreading content on Twitter that “could jeopardize public order and provoke public opinion.” However, his political commentary became even more outrageous and provocative. 

In September 2017, along with fellow hate preachers Salman Al-Odah and Ali Al-Omari, Al-Qarni was arrested.

Among other accusations, evidence was presented showing that Al-Qarni was funding the Brotherhood and other extremist jihadist groups in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.