Saudi Arabia has faced more than 60 attacks by terror groups Al-Qaeda and Daesh, about half of them in the last two years alone. Daesh, also known in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), called for the extermination of the Saudi royal family in three formal pronouncements issued between 2014 and 2016. India is the third-biggest target of terror attacks after Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the 11,072 terror attacks worldwide in 2016, as many as 927 took place in India.
Saudi Arabia and India have a long history of shared prosperity and pain, unifying them in happiness and grief. Having faced the brunt of terrorism, both have for long been treading the path of cooperation to fight the menace by joining forces in cyber and maritime security and against transnational crimes, human and drug trafficking.
The two countries have been partners in peace since 2006, as the year witnessed the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signing the landmark Delhi Declaration and agreeing to enhance regional and global cooperation to combat and eradicate terrorism. The two governments decided to closely and actively cooperate to fight other transnational crimes such as money laundering, drugs and arms smuggling in a sustained and comprehensive manner. Their continuous efforts for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism is an example of their unwavering will to fight the threat in all its forms.
The Riyadh Declaration of 2010 ushered in a new era of kinship between the countries, wherein they re-emphasised terrorism as a global epidemic engulfing all countries alike, irrespective of race, colour and beliefs. They also welcomed the signing of the Extradition Treaty and the Agreement for Transfer of Sentenced Persons according to which Indian prisoners imprisoned in Saudi Arabia or vice-versa shall be transferred to their country for serving the remaining part of their sentences. Also, their social rehabilitation shall be facilitated.
Another important milestone in strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries was the MoU on Defence Cooperation signed during the visit of the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to India in February 2014 as the then Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016 that resulted in enhanced cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing, anti-money laundering, prevention of use of cyber space for terrorism, radicalisation and for disturbing social harmony is yet another landmark event in this regard.
India has time and again lauded efforts by the kingdom in fighting terrorism such as the royal decree on counter-terrorism issued by King Abdullah. The kingdom is also a member of the 68-nation-strong Global Coalition Against Daesh and one of the founding countries of the Islamic Military Alliance against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
“We will not allow them (terrorists) to distort our peaceful religion. Today we are sending a strong message that we are working together to fight terrorism,” Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who is also the kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, told assembled defence ministers of the Islamic Military Alliance in his keynote address in Riyadh. Crown Prince Mohammed has vowed terrorists will be pursued until they are “wiped off the face of the earth”, sentiments that Prime Minister Modi has also shared.
The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) was also envisioned by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and launched in 2011 with an initial contribution of $10 million by Saudi Arabia. The kingdom later pledged another $100 million to enhance the capabilities of UNCCT. The kingdom also co-chairs the Counter ISIL Finance Group along with the United States and Italy. In fact, the Saudi government had put in place majority of its new financial controls and banking regulations in as early as 2003, aimed at stopping those who financially support terrorism and extremism within Saudi borders and beyond. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) issued instructions to all Saudi financial institutions to implement the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of the G-8 countries regarding money laundering and the recommendations regarding terror financing.
Together as committed global partners, Saudi Arabia and India are fighting a common enemy — global terrorism. Together they are working to establish peace that shall not only belong to the holy month of Ramadan but to all months and years to come.
(Ayalur K. Balakrishnan is a senior journalist who has worked with the Jeddah-based English daily Saudi Gazette for more than two decades. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)