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Saudi Arabia Cozies Up to India?

This week Indian authorities confirmed that Saudi Arabia has again extradited a member of an Indian militant group to India. This is the third extradition this year in the fledgling friendship between Saudi Arabia and India, provoked by Saudi preoccupation with the activities of its traditional ally, Pakistan. The WSJ reports on Saudi Arabia’s shift towards its friend’s foe:

Indian authorities confirmed Saudi Arabia had extradited Fasih Mehmood, an alleged member of Indian Mujahideen, a local militant outfit.

India earlier this year had sought an international arrest warrant for Mr. Mehmood, who is from Bihar and is wanted in connection with an attack in 2010 on a tourist bus in New Delhi and a stadium in Bangalore.

Earlier in October, Saudi Arabia extradited A. Rayees, another alleged Indian militant.

As we noted when the extraditions began earlier this summer, there are several reasons for the friendly gestures. First and foremost, Saudis are afraid of terrorism festering outside their borders and have recently reemphasized ties with the U.S. for this reason. Making nice with India is just another part of this strategy; it sends a strong signal to the Kingdom’s old friend Pakistan to disassociate itself from militant groups.

In addition, Saudi Arabia is extremely concerned about Iran and is looking to build a network aligned against the Shiite power. While India has thus far remained nonaligned, Saudi Arabia has been courting India’s participation by offering its oil in the place of Iran’s. Today, India imports most of its oil from Saudi Arabia despite the fact that Iran is closer.

None of this is to say that Saudi Arabia is dumping its old ally Pakistan, but messages are clearly being sent.

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