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Saudi Arabia-West ties: Market, not freedom, matters

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Presently, the Western governments seek to secure a boost in Saudi oil output so as to take care of the energy shortages that have occurred after Russia has cut its supplies.

Most of the Western governments are never weary of emphasising the need to spread freedom and democracy in the contemporary world. But they seldom care for these shared values in their actual conduct of diplomacy. The recent invitation the United Kingdom extended to Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to attend Queen Elizabeth II's funeral is a case in point.

Observers say MBS does not inspire a modern man endowed with scientific temperament and humanism. After he came to power, he has introduced some reforms. They include the removal of the ban on female drivers and the dilution of the male guardianship system in the country. Today female singers can perform in public concerts and women can go to sports stadia in the country. MBS aims to diversify the country's economy through investment in non-oil sectors, including technology and tourism. But he has done little positive on the front of freedom and democracy.

Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

MBS does not tolerate any dissent at home. Human rights activists, journalists, former insiders, and dissidents are systematically repressed through tactics including torture, jailing, and killings. A UN probe into journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death concluded that there was "credible evidence" to justify a further investigation of high-level Saudi officials, including MBS. Recently, two Saudi women were sentenced to imprisonment for allegedly using "the internet to tear the social fabric" and harming 'public order'.

My mother’s liking for her: Biden on Queen Elizabeth IIMy mother’s liking for her: Biden on Queen Elizabeth II

The rights record matters little to the Western governments. Their chief priority is the management of the market forces in accordance with their interests. Presently, they seek to secure a boost in Saudi oil output so as to take care of the energy shortages that have occurred after Russia has cut its supplies.

The Western governments seem to calculate MBS can be highly useful in this. The invite to MBS-he sent Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, a minister of state, to represent the kingdom on the Queen's funeral - can be seen in this context. In July this year, US President Joe Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia to cultivate MBS to deal with this energy crisis. Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for talks at the Elysée Palace for the same.

MBS may oblige the Western leaders with what they seek on the oil front. He seems to calculate this would consolidate his bonhomie with them and help him deflect the international attention from his continued notorious campaign against dissent at home.

(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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