NEW DELHI: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will arrive in India on his first state visit February 19-20.
The Prince, who is coming at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be accompanied by a large high-level delegation including Ministers, senior officials and leading Saudi businessmen.
“The visit is of course important for both sides,” said Talmiz Ahmad, who served as India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia twice. “From the point of view of the kingdom, the Prince is refurbishing his global image after the crisis relating to the murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi. From the Indian side the prime minister is facing elections in an environment of deep communal polarization, so after the visit he will be able to proclaim to certain sectors of the electorate that he remains a prominent leader on the global scene, and that a country as important as Saudi Arabia is willing to engage deeply with him,” he said.
MBS, as the crown prince is popularly known, is expected to meet senior Indian leaders including Modi, who during his visit to the kingdom in 2016 raised the strategic partnership to a special level. Over the past few years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas including energy security, trade & investment, infrastructure, defence and security.
Saudi Arabia supplies almost 20 per cent of India’s crude oil needs, and recently, Saudi ARAMCO in partnership with ADNOC of UAE has entered into a Joint Venture to invest US$ 44 billion in the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petro-Chemical project Limited.
The 2.7 million Indian community forms the largest expatriate group in Saudi Arabia, while the Kingdom hosts over 1,75,000 Indians for the Hajj pilgrimage every year.