Institute workshop aims to bolster Saudi-India relations

Participants at the fifth workshop on Saudi-India relations held at Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies in Riyadh. (AN photo)
Updated 03 March 2017

Institute workshop aims to bolster Saudi-India relations

RIYADH: The Center of Asian Studies at Prince Saud Al Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies (previously IDS) organized the fifth workshop on Saudi-India relations aiming to bolster bilateral ties.
The two-day workshop began Tuesday night with the opening remarks by Abdulkarim H. Al-Dekhayel, director general of Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies, who welcomed the Indian delegation from the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).
Addressing the opening session, Saud M. Al-Saty, Saudi ambassador to New Delhi, expressed hope the workshop would help further enhance relations between the two countries.
“The two countries share a number of values and principles and the common values will help further enhance cooperation,” he said, adding that there are many opportunities to boost bilateral relations with India emerging as a leading economy.
ICWA Director General Nalin Surie expressed thanks to the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for the workshop and exuded hope that it would bolster bilateral relations. Surie said that high-level visits from both sides deepened the bilateral relations.
Responding to a concern raised during the concluding session on Wednesday, Al-Saty said Nitaqat policy has nothing to do with any nationality and against any national, but instead is about streamlining the labor market with adequate representation of Saudis in jobs.
Indian ambassador Ahmad Javed, in a reply regarding Saudis’ image in the outside world, said, “Kingdom has many things to offer that include tourism and travel destinations and with the ease in the visa system, more people will visit the Kingdom, which will serve as an eye opener for them.”
Ali M. Alqarni from the Prince Saud Al Faisal Institute, told Arab News the relationship between both countries is strong but there is still potential to further improve it.
He said the Saudi-Indo relations developed in stages. The first stage was the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947, which was followed by high-level visits from both sides and with both countries being pragmatic to involve in political coordination, trade and investment.
“The visit by late King Abdullah in 2006 ushered in a new era in bilateral relations as the historic tour resulted in signing of ‘Delhi Declaration’ imparting a fresh momentum to the relationship and provided the framework for cooperation in all fields,” he said.

“The reciprocal visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to ‘Strategic Partnership’ and the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ signed during the visit further enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defense fields, whereas the visit of the then Crown Prince and now King Salman bin Abdulaziz to India in 2014 further deepened the relations,” he added.
He also referred to the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Riyadh last year as successful in growing bilateral engagement
“I feel that it is still not up to the potential of both countries,” Alqarni said. “We need to do more, and in my paper I asked India to make sure because energy security is extremely important for the growth of Indian economy, and India has got to use its leverage on Iran asking it to stop its rhetoric threatening peace in the region, which is also a threat to energy security for India.”
He also named Indian companies working on various projects across the Kingdom and made a graphic presentation on India’s energy profile and its dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Zakir Hussain, a research fellow of the ICWA at the workshop, highlighted export and import in bilateral trade and its current status.
Citing SAGIA report, he said there are 426 Indian companies registered in the Kingdom expected to bring in $1.6 billion as against the Saudi investment amounting to only $72.70 million, which indicates toward more Saudi investment in India.

How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

How Saudi Arabia turned back to the future

  • When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to bring back moderate Islam, he referenced a time before the developments of 1979 halted the Kingdom’s progress

Saudi Arabia was on a roll in the 1970s, enjoying the social and cultural developments that had begun in the previous two decades, and buoyed by the rising price of oil and the Kingdom’s first Development Plan.

But 1979 changed everything. Saudi Arabia took a conservative turn, prompted by two events: the Iranian Revolution in February, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and the siege by religious extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.  As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 2017’s Future Investment Initiative: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions … And quite frankly, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas … We want to live a normal life, a life that translates our moderate religion, our good customs.”

And that’s what has happened. Under Vision 2030 and a flurry of life-altering developments – movies and concerts, greater freedom for women, fitness in schools, to name just a few – the Kingdom is on a trajectory back to the future.

— THEN —

1955 - Saudi Arabia’s first private school for girls, Dar Al-Hanan, is founded in Jeddah by Princess Effat, with the support of her husband, Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, amid a social outcry. 

Read more: Saudi schooling goes back to the future

1960 - Royal decree approves public education for girls; schools are established in Riyadh, Makkah and other cities.

1962 - The non-profit women’s organization, Al-Nahda, is established by Princess Effat and a number of prominent Saudi women.


  • The Council of Ministers approves a project to establish television in the Kingdom.
  • The Department of Youth Welfare (previously the Department of Sport) creates four federations: volleyball, basketball, athletic and cycling.

1965 - King Faisal approves the first national television broadcast, a reading of the Qur’an, amid protests from conservatives.

King Faisal (right) and US President Richard Nixon.
  • The first TV broadcast in Saudi Arabia is launched from the US Consulate in Dhahran; “The Eye of the Desert” is broadcast in English and only to the Dhahran area. 

Read more: Saudis look back on the dawn of broadcasting on Saudi National Day 


  • The Kingdom’s first institute of higher education, King Saud University, is opened in Riyadh.
  • The launch of Aramco TV, with a wider broadcasting range that reaches Al-Hofuf and other areas across the Gulf. Broadcasts are in both Arabic and English.

OPINION: The 1970s — a seismic decade for Saudi Arabia’s economy  (Frank Kane)



January 22 - Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife leave Tehran.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

February 1 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile in France.

February 11 - Khomeini officially assumes power when troops loyal to the shah surrender.

February 16 - Iran’s revolutionary authorities start executions of leading supporters of the shah, including four top generals.

November 4 - US embassy in Tehran stormed by Iranian students who take 52 Americans hostage, demanding the extradition of the shah.

OPINION: Why Iran’s ‘Awakening’ created a nightmare for the Gulf  (Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami)


November 20 - A well-organized group led by Saudi militant Juhayman Al-Otaibi storms the Grand Mosque with weapons smuggled in coffins and vehicles using members pretending to be there to pray. Al-Otaibi is a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-

Militants arrested after the Makkah Siege of 1979 are escorted to prison. (File photo) 

Muhtasiba (Salafi Group that Commands Right and Forbids Wrong), which is angered by Western social influence, women’s presence in the Saudi workforce, TV and other issues. Worshippers are prevented from leaving after the announcement of a takeover over a microphone. Hostages are forced to pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Mohammed bin Abduallah Al-Qahtani, Al-Otaibi and their followers.

December 4 - The siege lasts for two weeks and ends after an intervention by Saudi special forces and their allies, leaving hundreds dead, including Saudi officers, soldiers and civilians as well as Al-Qahtani and his followers. Al-Otaibi is arrested and executed on Jan. 9, 1980.

Read more: ‘The air was heavy with fear’: Memories of Makkah’s Grand Mosque siege resurface on Saudi National Day


— NOW —


  • Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveils Vision 2030, a road map for Saudi Arabia’s future.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a new law restricting the religious police from questioning, pursuing or arresting violators; they must instead report them to the police or anti-narcotics officers.

Read more: Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day 

  • Princess Reema bint Bandar is appointed vice president for women’s affairs at the General Sports Authwority.
  • Kariman Abuljadayel is the first Saudi woman to compete in the 100-meter event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

Read more: Sporting success puts Saudi Arabia on track for glory on Saudi National Day

  • The General Authority for Entertainment and the General Sports Authority are established by royal decree.


  • King Salman appoints Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince ofSaudi Arabia.
  • The Saudi Stock Exchange appoints a woman, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as chairperson for the first time.
    King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at work. (SPA file photo)


  • In one of the first public music performances in many years, Mohammed Abdo performs for a men-only audience in Jeddah.

  • Giga-projects are launched: NEOM, a $500-billion megacity in theTabuk region, and the RedSea tourism project.
  • Saudi state schools announce that they will offer physical education classes for female students.
  • At the inaugural Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledges a return to moderate Islam.


  • Female fans are allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia; the match was Al-Ahli vs. Al-Batin in Jeddah on Jan. 12. 
  • Ending a 35-year ban on cinemas, the first commercial movie theater opens in Riyadh with a screening of “Black Panther” on April 18.
  • A ban on Saudi women driving is lifted on June 24.
  • An anti-harassment law, approved by the Shoura Council, receives praise from around the world.
  • King Salman launches plans for Qiddiya, expected to be the world’s largest entertainment city.
  • The Culture Ministry, headed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, is established.

Read more: Saudi Arabia’s ‘cultural rebirth’ in spotlight on Saudi National Day

  • Al-Ahsa Oasis is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Weam Al-Dakheel becomes the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV.
  • Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas are among the first international performers at the Formula E in Riyadh, for which the first trial tourist visas are granted.
  • The WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, beginning a 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority.


  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launches a mega tourism project in AlUla which will include a resort designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve dubbed Sharaan.


  • Lubna Al-Olayan becomes the first Saudi chairwoman to run a Saudi bank, a merger between Alawwal and Saudi British Bank.
  • Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar (top center), is appointed to Washington.
  • The Saudi Cabinet approves a “Privileged Iqama residency permit,” which will allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, offered to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds.
  • By royal decree, Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
  • A lineup of superstars perform in concerts across the Kingdom: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and 50 Cent in Jeddah; Andrea Bocelli in AlUla; Pitbull and Akon in the Eastern Province.
  • High-profile sports events include the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan; Fight Night between world boxing champion Amir Khan and Billy Dib; and the largest Battle Royale in WWE history.