India's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad has become the first Indian diplomat to be conferred the King Abdulaziz Medal of First Class for his contribution towards elevating Indo-Saudi ties.
The honour was bestowed upon him at Jeddah on Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal. Mr. Ahmad said he had made a “modest” contribution towards the improvement of Indo-Saudi ties.
However, analysts say Mr. Ahmad has been honoured because of the key role he has played in raising Indo-Saudi level to a “strategic” level — a landmark that was achieved during the visit to Riyadh by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year.
A diplomat who did not wish to be named said Mr. Ahmad was quick to grasp that Saudi perception of India was changing fundamentally, following the assassination of the former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, the Lal Masjid incident in Islamabad and the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. “There was a sea change of perception about India, which the Saudis began to realise, was a victim of terrorism and with whom the Kingdom now shared a deep collaborative interest to counter terrorism.” Consequently, “security cooperation” became the foundation of a much evolved Saudi-India relationship which was anchored in the Riyadh declaration, signed during the Prime Minister's visit.
“Out of all the elements of Indo-Saudi relationship, which include energy and investments as some of the other pillars, it is in the arena of security cooperation that greatest progress has so far been achieved,” the diplomat observed.
The award conferred on Mr. Ahmad comprises a decorative badge and a certificate signed by the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
Mr. Ahmad, who has earlier served in several West Asian destinations including Iraq, Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, said that he was “surprised, overjoyed and humbled” by the honour. “The foundations of a strategic partnership with the Kingdom have been established but a superstructure is yet to be constructed,” he observed.