Gulf: India’s energy storehouse

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Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia is important in no ways than one. Not only is the oil kingdom is India’s top source of petroleum but Saudi Arabia also host about 3 million overseas Indians out of 7 million in GCC countries allowing India to receive remittances from its diaspora in excess of 38 billion. But all this could change dramatically as Saudis and other Arab states are likely to cut jobs and look for cheaper labour. Even though India is engagement with Gulf has been limited in the past, Modi is keen to reverse the trend with visits to UAE and now Saudi Arabia. In the energy rich but turmoil ridden west Asian region that is now increasingly witnessing a sectarian divide between Sunni block led by Saudi Arabia along with Oman and the UAE, and Shia block led by Iran, that also include Iraq. India has to carefully balance the diplomatic act. While India provides a large consumer market for the oil exports from the Gulf, which have finally began to look across the Arabian Sea, India is equally keen to build a strategic energy reserve to cover 90 days of oil supply in an emergency. An initiative that has been agreed up on following the recent visit of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to India. But it was the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who became the first Gulf state to visit India after Mr Modi took over as the Prime Minister. Qatar is still India’s primary LNG gas supplier and is keen to invest in Make in India initiatives. However New Delhi’s effort to present a balanced approach to two major ideological Gulf rivals, the Saudis and the Iranians will soon see India as oil minister visiting Iran as a follow up for India’s Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

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