Saudi Arabia: So Much More Than Oil and Veiled Women

“I’m not from Delhi. I’m from Kolkata. It’s the best city in the world.”
“Oh nice. Actually, I spent my entire childhood in the Middle East. So I can’t say that I’m from Delhi either, I guess.”
*laughs* “So you’re from the place that kills women?”

This is a pretty regular conversation for me. I lived in the Middle East for 15 years, before moving back to India. I have been asked weird questions based on stereotypes all the time.
Wearing the Hijab is, more often than not, a choice,  source - wordpress(dot)com

The most typical question regarding hijab and women.
Source- wordpress.com

And a lot of these stem from the curiosity of people towards one country in particular – Saudi Arabia. I have become used to the questions now, and realized that it’s better to laugh it off (like it’s similar to a fat joke or black joke by AIB) than get into an argument with people.

Saudi Arabia recently witnessed the demise of their leader of ten years, King Abdullah, on 23rd January,2015.
King Abdullah source - arabia2day(dot)com
The sad fact is that despite Saudi Arabia being one of the biggest global powerhouses, the news didn’t seem to grab too many Indian eyeballs. In fact, the social media seemed to have more posts about Soha Ali Khan’s wedding than one of the most important news pieces 2015 had so far produced. The only real mention of Saudi Arabia was when it was pointed out that Obama had cancelled his visit to the Taj Mahal so that he could travel to the Kingdom instead, and pay his condolences.

im2
Barack Obama with Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed king.
Source- Google images

While we Indians may speak of our country being a knowledge-based global superpower all the time, it’s very ironic how most of us don’t have knowledge about the death of King Abdullah despite it being one of the most powerful countries on the globe. A lot of people view Saudi as nothing more than an oil-rich country where people drive fast cars, throw money at everything with a hefty price tag and insult women.

There are multiple reasons as to why Indians need to start knowing about roles played by different countries in the world economy. Because unless we know how far ahead other countries are, we can wave goodbye to the prediction of India being the world’s largest economy in 2050.

Here is a list of reasons why Saudi Arabia should matter to us:

Saudi Arabians flag
 Saudi Arabia’s National flag.
Source- Google images

  1. Most important OPEC membersaudi oil fields, source - forbes

Saudi Arabia has a daily production rate of 8.8 million barrels per day, making it the most productive member among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Saudi Arabia is so major a name in the world of crude oil that the King’s demise led to a rise of 2.4% in the prices of Brent crude oil, going against the current trend of descent in the prices of crude oil.

 

  1. Home to the world’s most valuable companyim3

Admittedly a slightly surprising fact is that the world’s most valuable company is not Microsoft or Google, but government-owned Saudi ARAMCO. With a valuation of US $10 Trillion, ARAMCO holds the largest reserves of crude oil (about 260 billion barrels). Let’s see Larry Page, Tim Cook and Satya Nadella compete with that, huh?

 

  1. Trade link between Africa and Asia

Saudi Arabia’s vast land mass is strategically located between the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, making it a suitable location to conduct trade from the East with Asia and the West with Africa. Also, the fact that the nation shares boundaries with eight other countries helps facilitate smooth trade in the region.

Saudi boasts of developed cities with amazing  architecture, source - arabianbusiness(dot)com
Source- arabianbusiness.com

 

  1. Major employer in blue collar jobs

3 million Indians, who work in blue collar jobs, currently reside and work in the Arab nation. The kingdom’s Nitaqat labour policy led to 140,000 Indians returning home due to incomplete documentation. However, the country ever-increasing demand of blue-collar workers is a constant source of employment for workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

 

  1. Unrest in the Middle Eastsaudi's strategic position on the map, source -  operationworld(dot)org

    Source- operationworld.org

Being the largest (geographically) and most powerful country in the Middle East, any sort of unrest in Saudi could see the economy of the entire region plummeting. After the recent regional unrest in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, a lot of people would have been wary of possibilities of political unrest after the demise of King Abdullah. A smooth transition of regime to the late king’s half-brother (King Sultan) was surely a reason for relief among the people of the nation.

Saudi Arabia is the only country to every decline a seat on the United Nation’s Security Council because they felt the UN treated Arab countries unfairly. If that is not enough proof of the kind of powerhouse the country is, then nothing is. Sure, the country is unfair towards women; but do Indians really have the right to speak on that when crimes against women are a never-ending menace for our homeland? So it is time to look past the oil fields & rich Sheikhs and view the country as the superpower it is.

By Lakshaya Soin

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