WION New Delhi, Delhi, India
Feb 19, 2019, 11.03 PM
Saudi Arabia's crown Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud arrived in India on Tuesday evening with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi breaking the protocol to receive him. With a hug by Prime Minister to the Mohammed bin Salman, known famously by his initials MBS he was welcomed amid the bhangra and a show of Indian culture.
Indian prime minister has in the past broken protocol for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2018), Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein(2018), United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (2017) and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina (2015).
This is the second meeting between the Indian Prime minister and Saudi Prince in the last 3 months. The last met on the sidelines of G20 summit in Argentina on 30th November. Wednesday will be the main day of engagement when he will be welcomed at Rashtrapati Bhawan, followed by bilateral and delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House.
The focus will be on terror in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack last week in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. New Delhi will be keen that Riyadh mounts pressure on its traditional ally Pakistan. With Pakistan backed terror group Jaish e Mohammad claiming responsibility for the attack, India will be hoping that Saudi Arabia comes hard on Pakistan especially by way of tightening the purse strings.
MBS comes to India, a day after his 2-day visit to Pakistan. It is interesting to note that the Saudi prince went back to Riyadh after his Pakistan visit, and came back again to New Delhi, a development which many will see de-hyphenation by Saudi Arabia between Pakistan and India and something New Delhi will prefer in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack.
Sources have told WION,"a strong statement on terror is expect" since Saudi does not now "accept Pakistani narrative on terror" and the West Asian country's narrative on terror has "evolved over the year."
India is one of the eight strategic partners of Saudi Arabia with which the West Asian country intends to deepen partnership in areas of political, security, trade and investment and culture. Both countries are finalizing the setting up of ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ at the Ministerial level. Bilateral trade between both the countries stood at US$ 27.48 billion in the financial year 2017-18. Saudi Arabia is India's 4th largest trading partner with New Delhi get 17% of its oil imports from the country. Oil prices are something that India has been consistently raising with Saudi Arabia, an OPEC country. Saudi ARAMCO along with ADNOC of UAE in 2018 agreed to partner in Ratnagiri Refinery.
Saudi Arabia will soon be joining the International Solar Alliance initiative.
The country hosts 2.7 million strong Indian community, one of the largest in west Asia, sending remittance of over US$ 11 billion annually. Last year the kingdom increased India's Haj quota by 5000.
This is the second meeting between the Indian Prime minister and Saudi Prince in the last 3 months.