New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held extensive talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday on a less than 30-hour visit.
After the ceremonial welcome where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also present, the Saudi royal told the media, “Today we want to be sure that this relation is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries.
“With the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India.”
He also said that the ties between India and the Arabian Peninsula “is in our DNA”.
Saudi Prince also said they will cooperate with India on combating terrorism and extremism as it were a “common concern”. “We want to tell India that we will cooperate with them on intelligence sharing…not just with India but with our neighbours as well. We thank India for the positive role in this,” Mohammad Bin Salman said.
His visit comes in the backdrop of the escalating tension between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group in which 40 CRPF were killed.
The Crown Crown Prince arrived in India a day after concluding his high-profile tour of Pakistan where he said dialogue was the only way to resolve “outstanding issues” between India and Pakistan.
In a special gesture, PM Modi broke the protocol to receive him at the Delhi airport, signifying importance India attaches to the visit by the leader of the powerful Gulf nation. In a tweet, PM Modi said India is “delighted to welcome” the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
After Salman’s arrival, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “A new chapter in bilateral relations. Breaking protocol, PM @narendramodi personally recieves HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as he arrives on his first bilateral visit to India!”
In a joint statement, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday called for avoiding “politicisation” of the UN listing regime at a time when India was stepping up efforts to brand the JeM terror group’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
The joint statement said the Saudi Crown Prince stressed that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve “outstanding issues” between India and Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said in Islamabad Riyadh will try to “de-escalate” tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack.
Official sources said Saudi Arabia was no longer accepting Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir and cross border terrorism and that India will forcefully raise the issue of Pakistan’s support to terror groups during delegation level talks between Modi and the Crown Prince.
They said the joint statement to be issued after talks between the two sides is likely to have strong reference about terrorism and ways to deal with it.
Official sources said there has been a “change” in the way Saudi Arabia looked at relations between India and Pakistan and that the powerful Gulf nation has a better understanding of the cross-border terrorism.
The sources said the two sides are looking at joint exercise between the two navies besides significantly ramping up overall defence cooperation.
India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.
Saudi Arabia is also a key pillar of India’s energy security, being a source of 17 per cent or more of crude oil and 32 per cent of LPG requirements of India.
Recently, Saudi ARAMCO in partnership with ADNOC of UAE has agreed to partner in Ratnagiri Refinery and Petro-Chemical project Ltd which is a joint venture of USD 44 billion.
Indian partners are IOC, BPCL and HPCL.
The Crown Prince is expected to travel to China from India.