New Delhi: Terrorists have hijacked Islam and Saudi Arabia will therefore spare no effort or expense to “combat terrorism, uproot extremism and drain terrorist and extremist groups of resources”, Saudi Ambassador to India, Saud Mohammed Al-Sati, said here on Thursday.
In an address on ‘Saudi-India Relation: Continuity and Change’ at the Centre for West Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the envoy regretted that “Saudi Arabia is not given enough and proper credit for its leading role in fighting extremism and terrorism at the local, regional and international levels”, a role that has been praised by major international intelligence agencies.
On the contrary, he said, a section of Western media and analysts “and some of their counterparts in India” do gross injustice to the Kingdom by accusing it of exporting extremist ideology or supporting violent extremism.
He said it is illogical and irrational for Saudi Arabia to remain anywhere but at the forefront of nations combating this scourge, and said the Kingdom has been a target of diverse terrorist groups for a long time. He said these go as far back as 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued his first fatwa against the Kingdom, this taking place after “we revoked his citizenship and closed his access to his bank accounts two years prior”.
He said terrorists do not practise or preach any religion, they simply hijack it, “as they have hijacked Islam, and in the name of Islam they kill Muslims and non-Muslims. Last week the Houthi terrorist militias based in Yemen tried to attack the most sacred place in Islam by directing their missile towards Makkah. And yet they claim to be Muslims.”
In May 2003, the Saudi capital was targeted by Al-Qaeda with simultaneous suicide bombings at three residential compounds, he stated, and said the Kingdom “has also been a target of terrorism perpetrated by proxies of Iran, which has used terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy since the 1979 revolution”.
He said terrorism was a common concern for both Saudi Arabia and India and the two countries were closely cooperating in fighting it, including through exchange of information and intelligence. He said both countries had signed several agreements in the field of security, including an extradition treaty, and during the April visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the kingdom, the two sides decided to further enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and law enforcement.
The envoy highlighted the “strong bonds of friendship” between the two countries and its people that was deeply rooted in history, and said a “vital aspect of our specific relations is the presence of over three million Indian citizens in Saudi Arabia”, who were not only contributing to the progress and development of both countries but also serving as an important cultural bridge between the peoples.
He said the two countries were now strategic partners and among the top trading partners with each other. “Saudi Arabia remains a major pillar for India’s energy security, and our partnership in the fields of investment, joint ventures, and transfer of technology projects is steadily growing.”
The envoy said Saudi Arabia is a country with abundant sovereign wealth and a keenness to diversify its economy and would be happy to invest and develop India’s “vast infrastructure”.
He said India is a primary focus of the Kingdom’s campaign to court foreign investors and 426 licences have been issued to Indian companies to invest in the Kingdom, and long-established Indian companies like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Larsen & Toubro have made very significant investments in the Gulf country.
The seminal “Saudi Vision 2030″, which aims at attracting huge investments and building of massive manufacturing facilities and infrastructure, offers a range of opportunities for Indian businesses, he said.