Saudi Arabia has witnessed massive rapid changes in its social and economic sphere since the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the high office. The 37-year-old de facto ruler has overseen the most fundamental transformation in the modern history of the Gulf nation and sidelined all rivals after becoming the crown prince in June 2017.
MBS is a modern and liberal man with a vision to transform Riyadh and end its reliance on oil. His ‘Vision 2030’ has outlined social and economic changes in the country. Prince Mohammed has committed to transforming Saudi Arabia into a more moderate country and is currently seeking the support of foreign investors to help implement his ambitious Vision 2030 initiative.
He spoke to international business leaders at a conference in Riyadh shortly after becoming crown prince. He was quoted as saying, “We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness,”
In the past six years, Mohammed bin Salman has made noteworthy changes in his traditionally conservative nation while also strengthening his authority as the leader. He holds a law degree from King Saud University and is still unmarried.
In accordance with his vision, Prince Mohammed has made multiple liberal reforms, which have boosted his popularity among the Saudis. Under his reign, In 2018, women were allowed to drive and attend public events and concerts alongside men.
In 2019, women above 21 were allowed to travel or obtain passports without the approval of a male guardian.
He lifted the ban on Cinemas and encouraged mixed-gender events. The kingdom also opened itself to foreign tourists in order to diversify the economy.
The crown prince’s most ambitious project is the NEOM initiative, which is worth $500 billion and is located on the Red Sea coast. The project is set to be powered by solar energy and will operate with the help of robots. According to the crown prince, this is a major step forward for humanity.
In a recent development, Riyadh will now allow the sale of liquor to foreign diplomats of non-Muslim countries through a store that is set to open in the capital.
India is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with Riyad being New Delhi’s 4th largest trading partner owing to the large amounts of crude oil purchased by the Indian government.
Saudi Arabia is a key partner in ensuring India’s energy security.
Bilateral trade between the two nations in FY 2022-23 was valued at $52.76 billion.
Defence ties between the nations have witnessed massive growth in the past few years owing to the good relations among the prime ministers.
Riyadh is also interested in the Indian market and recognises the potential for its diversification by investments in India, which has already begun with Saudi Aramco. The Gulf nation is the 14th largest foreign investor in India, with an FDI of $3.5 billion in the latest data.
Despite his forward-looking approach, MBS is a ruler who does not tolerate criticism. He has presided over multiple crackdowns on critics, including prominent clerics, activists, and royal elites. Prince Mohammed faced a barrage of criticism from the global community after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul.
He has overseen an attack in Yemen against the Houthis and a standoff with the predominantly Shia Iran.
However, a more liberal, open and prosperous Saudi will only bring growth to the region and benefit regional players in the long term. Therefore, MBS is indeed a leader who is crossing the threshold and breaking the barriers to embrace modernism and liberalism to ensure the growth and stability of his country through diversification projects. One can only judge his far-sighted approach by looking at his policy Vision 2030, which he has been implementing with full pomp and show.
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