Why is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques heading a large Saudi delegation on a visit to China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan? Does Riyadh intend to alter the scope of its strategic relations? Or is it about to embark on a political adventure?
Before answering these questions, it is necessary to recall a news item, small in its word count, big in its political and economic implications. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, announced that America will shift an estimate 100 diplomatic posts from Europe to developing countries such as India and China!
These “developing countries”, like China, are currently growing at a rate estimated between 8 and 10%, with a population exceeding one billion people. This vibrant economy greatly worries Europe and the United States. Interestingly, our newspaper published an article last week revealing that 90% of gifts bought during the holiday season in 2005 were made in China. The same applies to India, which is witnessing rapid economic growth and technological superiority on the level of competencies, employment and its population that numbers more than a billion. Of course, this is not all that distinguishes China and India; economists are familiar with more important matters than theses.
However, from a political perspective, the answer to the questions above is, of course, no! Saudi Arabia is not embarking on a political adventure but on a required economic and political move. Forging economic and political relations with countries expected to represent a market for oil and its derivatives and greatly benefits the Saudi economy is definitely an important step. How could it be otherwise when the United States, the world’s only superpower, believes that the world is gravitating towards India and China? Even if it only seeks to send a hundred diplomats to developing countries, the move is politically indicative. Economically, we are all aware of the difficult US-Chinese commercial talks given that China is a reality Washington does not dismiss, and neither should Riyadh.
The King’s visit to China and India follows his earlier visit to the United States and the Kingdom’s accession to the World Trade Organization. It is therefore not a departure from the strategic and historical relations but the reinforcement for the interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The visit to Malaysia, one of the five Asian Tigers economies falls in the same bracket. For its part, Pakistan enjoys strategic relations with Riyadh.
Taking no notice of China and India is wrong. Moving towards them is a wise political and economic decision and not an adventure. But Saudis ought to be concerned about their image in both countries but what they can offer, what the Chinese and Indians can achieve from this association, and of course, what Saudi Arabia can reap from these relations.