Riyadh: India has a powerful case to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the principal UN organ must adapt to the evolving global conditions, not only to fulfill its objectives of maintaining international security but also to remain relevant, said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is in Saudi Arabia on his first visit to the Gulf Kingdom.
India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the Security Council saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the Council, which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st Century.
Jaishankar said there is a broad global consensus over the need to reform the Council, particularly as it does not reflect the realities of the world, asserting that an expanded Council is not only in India's favour, but also in favour of other unrepresented areas.
"India as the largest democracy, fifth largest economy, nuclear power, technological hub, and tradition of global engagement has a powerful case to be a permanent member of the Security Council. The Council must adapt to the evolving global conditions, not only to fulfill its objectives of maintaining international security, but also to remain relevant," he told the Saudi Gazette newspaper in an interview.
Jaishankar arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on a three-day visit to discuss ways to further strengthen relations between the two countries. It is his first visit to Saudi Arabia as External Affairs Minister.
He called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and handed over a written message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the progress in bilateral ties on Sunday.
Jaishankar covered a wide ambit of the bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and India in his interview with the Jeddah-based English daily.
Terming Saudi Arabia an "important player" in today's global economy not only due to its impressive growth numbers, but also due to its central position in the energy markets, he said the Gulf country is an important economic partner for India, with nearly USD 42.86 billion worth of trade during FY22 (April 2021 - March 2022).
"Energy is indeed one of the keystone areas in our bilateral cooperation. Apart from our traditional trade in the field of energy, both nations are now collaborating in the domains of new and renewable energy. The Joint Working Group on Energy has identified 19 project opportunities for collaboration, which include investments in LNG infrastructure and multiple renewable energy projects, human capacity building and joint research," Jaishankar said.
He said there are several areas where India and Saudi Arabia can collaborate to help achieve the Kingdom's Vision 2030.
"The Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) is central to furthering this cooperation as it provides an institutional mechanism to ensure regular and continuous progress of the bilateral relationship. Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom has set ambitious targets that require extensive economic cooperation. The Kingdom can certainly benefit from India's rising economy, not only through two-way investments, but also due to India's skilled manpower," he said.
Jaishankar said India has come out of COVID-19 stronger in terms of capacity building and financial, digital and communication transformation.
He said the leadership of both the countries remained in constant coordination throughout the pandemic and dealt with ensuing challenges in a unified manner.
"India and Saudi Arabia followed through on their commercial commitments and maintained the supply chains. India supplied 4.5 million doses of COVID vaccines to Saudi Arabia to support its vaccination drive. Similarly, Saudi Arabia also sent oxygen cylinders and liquid medical oxygen (LMO) tanks during the critical time of the second wave of COVID in India.," he said.
Jaishankar said as part of India's extended neighborhood, the Gulf region in general, and the Kingdom in particular, are crucial to India's foreign policy priorities in the region.
"Such cooperation is visible by increased engagements with all six GCC countries over the past few years. With Saudi Arabia in particular, defence and security cooperation has increased significantly in recent times, with the first-ever bilateral naval exercise "AL MOHED AL HINDI" being held in August 2021. The two countries can certainly look to increase such cooperation to fulfill several of India's regional initiatives, such as the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region)," he said.
Responding to a question on climate action and climate justice, Jaishankar said India has been at the forefront of the battle against climate change.
"India is currently the only G20 country that is moving fast towards achieving its climate goals. Similarly, Saudi Arabia too has indicated its willingness to play a leading role towards a greener world, which is indicated through the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. The two countries can certainly synergise their efforts by increasing cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and clean energy technologies," he said.
Jaishankar said increased India-Saudi Arabia cooperation will benefit not only the region, but also the global community.
"Bilateral cooperation across all sectors, including political, security, defence, economic, and cultural domains has repercussions for the region. India and Saudi Arabia are collaborating to ensure security through respect for international law, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Such cooperation should certainly increase regional stability," he said.
"India-Saudi Arabia economic cooperation is also another factor that should increase regional stability as the two major economies accelerate regional growth," he added.
The changing global order will have an impact on any country's foreign policy. With the region, as well as the world, experiencing volatility due to COVID, conflicts, climate events and economic uncertainty, the Indo-Saudi partnership offers a significant factor of stability, he said.
"In this context, our relations with Saudi Arabia have strengthened considerably over the past decade, which eventually culminated in the formation of the Strategic Partnership Council in October 2019," Jaishankar said.
He said the bilateral relations have strengthened due to increasing synergies and shared interests, and this carries additional salience in today's dynamic international environment.
The two countries are currently collaborating across nearly all sectors, which has expanded the depth of the relationship and made it comprehensive, he said.
"A major reason for this expansion has been the evolving regional situation, for instance, our defense cooperation, particularly in the naval domain has gradually strengthened in the past few years, leading to the first-ever bilateral naval exercise in August 2021. In the economic domain as well, our bilateral trade last year stood at USD 42.86 billion, reflecting the growing interconnections between our two economies," he said.
"This year is a milestone year for us. We have now entered the "Amrit-Kal" (Golden period), which will continue for the next 25 years to reach the centenary of our Independence and diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. During this period, I am hopeful of exponential growth in our bilateral relations," he added.