July 28, 2012


A Challenge for Pakistan: Saudi Arabia's New Counterterrorism Cooperation with India ( Animesh Roul, 7/26/12, Jamestown Foundation)

The visible shift in Indo-Saudi bilateral ties in the diplomatic sphere can be traced to the January 2006 Memorandum of Understanding on combating terrorism (part of the larger "Delhi Declaration") signed by then Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa'ud al-Faizal bin Abdul Aziz al-Sa'ud (Press Trust of India [New Delhi], January 25, 2006). The much needed extradition treaty was finally signed in late February 2010, furthering bilateral security cooperation under the auspices of the March, 2010 Riyadh Declaration (Times of India, March 1, 2010). 

Riding in this new wave of counterterrorism cooperation from Saudi Arabia, India is attempting to target other Indian terrorist fugitives currently holed up in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region, including former leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and LeT operatives such as C.A.M. Basheer and Abu Haroon. 

The arrest and deportation of Ansari, who was sent by his LeT handlers to Saudi Arabia on a mission to mobilize resources for the next big attack against India, certainly signals a new phase of Indo-Saudi anti-terrorism cooperation, even though it took months of diplomatic negotiations (with the United States playing an active role) to persuade Saudi authorities to overcome their long standing pro-Pakistan policies. Indeed, the latest policy shift goes against the Kingdom's old ally Pakistan in many ways. Ansari now becomes the third living proof of Pakistan's complicity in the Mumbai attacks, along with Ajmal Kasab and David Headley. It also sends a strong message to Pakistan that the Kingdom is no longer a safe haven or staging point for Islamic extremists who use the country to exploit both Salafist sympathizers and the South Asian diaspora to raise funds and to scout talent for jihad.

India is concerned about Saudi Arabia's largesse towards the Islamic madrassas and charity organizations that have contributed to Salafist-Jihadi extremism in South Asian countries. Saudi Arabia has also been at the center of controversy over its support for Kashmir-centric charities and LeT fronts like Jama'at-ud-Dawa (JuD) in the name of health and educational aid. Even Saudi Arabia's legitimate banking institutions are now being closely watched by authorities in the United States, India and Bangladesh for facilitating transactions and hosting accounts of Indian-centric Pakistan-based terrorist groups and charities.

However, the change of heart on the part of the Saudi authorities is not directly related to U.S. pressure. Saudi Arabia well understands the dynamics of the changing geopolitical atmosphere in the Arab world and India's growing clout in the world stage. It also appreciates the fact that terrorism is a double-edged sword, especially following the August 2009 suicide attack on Prince Muhammad bin Nayef in Jeddah (al-Jazeera [Doha], August 28, 2009). 

Posted by at July 28, 2012 7:52 AM

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