|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Saudi king to be Republic Day chief guest
December 05, 2005 10:33 IST
In a significant forward move in oil diplomacy, India has invited King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, king and ruler of Saudi Arabia, to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade on January 26.
Not only will this be the first visit by a Saudi monarch in 50 years (King Saud visited India in 1955), but also will launch a new phase of relations between India and the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the biggest supplier of oil to India.
The visit marks quiet diplomatic work being done for many years. India's political relationship with Saudi Arabia picked up in 2001 with former foreign minister Jaswant Singh's three-day visit. Before that, contacts with Saudi Arabia were sparse.
Former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru paid a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1956 and later, Indira Gandhi visited the kingdom in 1982.
Foreign minister Saud Al Faisal came on a three-day visit in April 1981.
In December 1994, the then finance minister Manmohan Singh visited Saudi Arabia for the meeting of the Indo-Saudi Joint Commission. The visit of Dr Singh was followed by the visit to India of Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, son of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, second deputy prime minister and defence minister in October 1996.
In the past, ties tended to be cool because of Saudi Arabia's close relations with Pakistan. That the kingdom has de-hyphenated its relationship indicates India has been accepted on her own terms.
Pakistan is likely to watch the outcome of the visit anxiously.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram visited Riyadh in April, and Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar went to Saudi Arabia in March. Saudi Petroleum Minister Ali Al-Naimi visited New Delhi in January to attend the first round table of Asian ministers on regional co-operation in the oil and gas economy.
Mauritius President Cassam Uteen was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in 2004.