After Aramco attacks, Saudi Arabia to enhance anti-terror cooperation with India

New Delhi: Nearly two weeks after worst ever drone and missile attacks on its oil facilities, Saudi Arabia has said it will ramp up cooperation with India in combating terrorism, including by choking flow of funds to terror groups and boosting intelligence sharing.

Saudi Ambassador Dr Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati said India and Saudi Arabia are closely cooperating with each other in fighting terrorism and enhancing their level of engagement to deal with the menace.

A series of drone and missile attacks on the oil facilities of Saudi Aramco, the country’s largest petroleum company, on September 14 knocked out half its daily oil production, severely impacting the global oil market and triggering fresh tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Yemen’s Houthi terror group has taken responsibility for the biggest-ever attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Saudi Arabia and its ally, the US, have blamed Iran for the attacks but Tehran has strongly denied the allegations.

“Saudi Arabia and India have been closely cooperating with each other in fighting terrorism, including through exchange of information and intelligence,” Al Sati told PTI in an interview.

Saudi Arabia, known to be a key ally of Pakistan, has been siding with India in its campaign to rid the region of terrorism and pledged to extend all cooperation to effectively deal with the challenge. Both countries already signed several agreements in the field of security, including an extradition treaty.

“Saudi Arabia is leading the global campaign against terrorism, terror financing and extremism. We are the founding member of a 68-nation strong Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and one of the founding countries of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Collation,” the Saudi envoy said.

He said Saudi Arabia valued India as a close friend and a “strategic partner” and will further enhance defence and security cooperation.

“We recently became the first Arab country to gain membership of the elite Financial Action Task Force that works against terror financing.

“We have spared no effort to combat terrorism. Our government put in place financial controls and banking regulations as early as 2003 to stop those who financially support terrorism and extremism within Saudi borders and beyond,” Al Sati said.

He also recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016 when the two countries decided to further enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and law enforcement.

“The recent attack against Saudi Aramco was not only against the Kingdom, but against the international community as a whole, and was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the global economy. Therefore, the perpetrators should be held accountable,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has vowed to take action against those behind the attacks.

During Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s visit here in February, the two countries decided to constitute a comprehensive security dialogue and set up a joint working group on counter-terrorism to effectively deal with challenges of terrorism.

“We look forward to India’s continued partnership. Saudi Arabia has valued India as a close friend and a strategic partner,” he said.

About the attacks on Saudi oil installations, the envoy said Saudi Arabia expressed its appreciation for the positions taken by the international community in condemning and denouncing the strikes.

“The kingdom calls upon the international community to assume its responsibility in condemning those that stand behind this act, and to take a firm and clear position against this reckless behaviour that threatens the global economy,” he added.

India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last few years based on burgeoning energy ties besides cooperation in several other areas. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Riyadh in 2016 put bilateral ties on a new trajectory.

Over 2.96 million Indian nationals work in Saudi Arabia, the largest expatriate community in the country.