by Isa Bin Abdul Rahman, The Rahnuma Daily Sub-Editor (Online English Edition)
Hyderabad, Sept 15 (RAHNUMA) The bilateral relationship between India and Saudi Arabia continues to flourish as a never ending saga, with trade and cultural ties going as far back the Mahabharata. PN Bali, in The History of Mohyals (1986) wrote, “The induction of Brahmans (Datts) into Arabia is attributed to the Mahabharat character Ashvathama, who after the treacherous assassination of his father Dronacharya in the epic war, went into voluntary exile and bestrode into Arabia and made a home there.” Archaeological research at sites in Bahrain and Oman has led to the recovery of artifacts traceable to the Indus Valley civilization, confirming trade between us and our Arab friends for over 4000 years!
This bilateral relationship became stronger and scales a new height in recent years with the ascension of His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and ennobling of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India in South Asia.
This marks a new era of consolidating the bilateral relationship between these two nations of a diverse cultural who always echoed for cultural ties in unison and shown unflinching determination towards the development of their economies. With their determination they always strive to overcome the political ebb and flow that often grips their respective regions.
Both countries live together for centuries and have evolved their respective nations into thriving intertwined economies, albeit with geographic and cultural barriers.
Like Adam’s journey from India to Eve in Arabia, the two economies flourished together with a common vision of peaceful coexistence with tolerance and prosperity.
To extract energy from its oil reserves, the oil-rich kingdom has relied heavily on a labor force of mostly expats which it received in abundance from India.
Saudi Arabia has been a hotbed of opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled expatriate workers from India to earn a decent living for themselves and their families in the Kingdom.
Presently, there are around six million skilled and semi-skilled expatriate workers in the Kingdom. Non-Saudi labor constitutes 79.1% of the total number of non-Saudi residents.
At the onset of this century, there were approximately 1.5 million Indians working and living in Saudi Arabia. Presently the number has reached a whopping figure of nearly 3 million people that include Doctors, Engineers, IT professionals, Academicians, Scientists, Chemists, and Workers.
Indians form a huge diaspora of expats in the community in the kingdom. They have availed employment opportunities in the kingdom and contribute to almost all economic sectors in the oil-rich nation.
Indians form the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and they are appreciated due to their expertise, sense of discipline, law-abiding and peace-loving nature. The Indian labor contribution in the development of the kingdom is repeatedly acknowledged and rewarded by Saudi officials. Even the Saudi citizens’ affirm this incontrovertible reality of the zest of coexistence among the India diaspora.
On the other, Saudi’s have always been welcoming to talented expats from India and other countries. Strong labor laws further make it a preferred destination for talent to migrate to the kingdom.
In this win-win situation, both communities have collectively benefited with the fruit of their hard work and determination. Many Indians, who once started from humble beginnings, by availing opportunities in the kingdom have now become Indian billionaires. They are owners of renowned hospitals, doctors, and successful investment bankers. Many of them today comprise of the highest echelons of the Saudi society with burgeoning businesses in the region. The success stories of Indian expats in the kingdom exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s robust business and legal environment and its relationship to India and Indians.
In a new development this year, the Saudi government approved a new residency scheme for expatriates. It is likely to resolve any outstanding issues with a current immigration system. Especially the new residency scheme is officially known as “Privileged Iqama” and commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card” was first mentioned by His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who has also been a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. It will give any expatriate who pays the required fee the right to live, work and own business and property in the Kingdom.
In September 2018, the Ministry of Finance re-confirmed its abidance to the free transfer of capital including Expatriates’ Remittances, provided it is done through the recognized legal channels and in accordance with the established world-class standards and practices.
The ties between two nations further emboldened the two countries signed an agreement on Labor Cooperation for Domestic Service Workers Recruitment to protect the rights of both the employers and workers and to regulate the contractual relationship between them. The two countries even have established a Joint Working Group on Consular issues.
Above all, Saudi Arabia is a source of opportunity for millions of households in developing countries not only in terms of employment but also in remittances.
According to the Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016, the Kingdom is the second-largest remittance source country in the world with an estimated $37 billion in outflows, second only to the US with $56 billion.