Paper Money

Saudi Arabia may withdraw controversial 20-riyal bank note

Saudi Arabia may withdraw a note that offended India because of the map on its back.

Images courtesy of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.

As the Group of 20 leading economic powers gathered remotely for its summit meeting on Nov. 21 and 22, its host, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, appears to have acknowledged a diplomatic blunder and a monetary embarrassment.

The summit was to be held in Riyadh until COVID-19 caused a change in format. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the kingdom’s central bank, released a 20-riyal commemorative note for it on Oct. 24 that immediately created a diplomatic incident with India. The world map highlighting the G20 countries on the note’s back depicted the disputed Indian-controlled Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir with its own borders, and not as part of India.

The reaction from India was swift, demanding that the error be corrected and even threatening nonparticipation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the summit.

Although the disputed bank note was still featured on the central bank’s website as of Nov. 21, multiple news sources indicate that the Saudis are succumbing to the pressure, and possibly creating a desirable collectible in the process. Sources told news outlets, including the Defence Aviation Post and World is One News, an Indian English language news-based pay television channel, that Saudi Arabia is taking action. Reports are that the note will be withdrawn soon and that it will not circulate.

How many, it any, have found their way into public hands since October 24 remains to be seen.

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