In the later joint statement of February 2019, India welcomed the “moderation and openness” being pursued by the Saudi crown prince in his country, while the latter appreciated “the Indian model of ethos of inclusiveness, pluralism and tolerance”.
The India-Oman statement of February 2018 noted “the historically close bilateral ties, involving vibrant maritime trade and cultural exchanges” that had been fostered by the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, and had opened opportunities for a “strategic partnership based on trust and mutual respect”. The ties fostered during Modi’s prime ministership have gone beyond rhetoric to concrete deals. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have offered to make major investments in India, amounting to $70 billion and $100 billion, respectively, to develop India’s infrastructure and the energy and industrial sectors. Investments of a few billion dollars have already been made in specific projects.
The countries have also manifested their personal regard for the Indian prime minister by bestowing high awards upon him: the UAE conferred on him the “Order of Zayed”, its highest civilian award in August 2019; it had first announced the award in February, in the midst of the general elections, making clear its support for him. In August, he also received the “The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance”, Bahrain’s highest civilian award. Earlier, in April 2016, the Saudi ruler conferred on him its highest award, “The King Abdulaziz Sash”. Hindutva zealots, blinded by the religious binary, seem largely unfamiliar with the 5000-year heritage that has bonded the Indian and West Asian civilisations and peoples an engagement that has been uninterrupted, has been rarely influenced by considerations of faith and has been constantly refreshed to impart contemporary value to the relationship.
There is archaeological evidence on the links of the Harappan civilisation with Bahrain and Oman, with India providing cereals, textiles and items of gracious living, items which dominate India’s export basket to this region even now. Later, India had close maritime ties with Assyria, Persia and Egypt, and, through Arab merchants, with the Roman empire. For 2000 years before the advent of Islam, Indian and Arab peoples lived for long periods in each other’s lands and were familiar with each other’s religion, culture, social norms and values and way of life. After the advent of Islam, the Arabs first encountered India militarily with the invasion and occupation of Sindh in 718-800 AD. While this had little significance politically, its cultural impact was profound; Malik Mohammed says: “The Arabs … were astonished at the superiority of [India’s] civilisation. The sublimity of Indian philosophical ideas and the richness of the Indian intellect were a strange revelation to them.” (The Foundations of the Composite Culture in India, Aakar Books, 2007, p. 58.) Ancient Indian works in the areas of medicine, astronomy and mathematics was translated from Sanskrit into Arabic. These included: Arthashastra, Sidhandha Charaka Samhitha and the Panchatantra. In the reign of the Abbasid caliph Mamoon (813-33 AD), the mathematician Al Khwarizmi (780-840) adapted Sanskrit numerals into Arabic mathematics.
To be Continued…