NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud left New Delhi for China after a 30-hour state visit on Wednesday, leaving mixed feelings in his wake. MbS, as he is popularly known, was received with the trade-mark bear hug by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night.
Given the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the fact that MBS had visited Pakistan a day before his India visit to offer $20 billion in aid and praise Islamabad’s efforts to fight terror, there were many who felt that India should have been a bit less welcoming towards the prince.
“But that’s not how foreign policy works,” retorted a senior official. “Let us not forget that Saudi Arabia supplies over 20% of our crude oil needs, and the fact that over 2.7 million Indians work in the Kingdom,” he said.
Although neither named Pakistan publicly, both sides pledged to step up joint counter-terrorism efforts and stressed the need to sanction terrorists and their organisations by the UN, a clear reference to Masood Azhar, the Jaish leader. The two sides also agreed to set up a joint working group to counter terrorism.
On the economic front, Saudi Arabia would invest some $100 billion in India, including $11 billion in the Ratnagiri refinery project, which also has investments from the UAE.
On Wednesday, after a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan, MbS, who arrived with a large delegation, went to Hyderabad House where he held restricted, one-on-one and delegation level talks with the Indian side, led by Modi, after which the PM hosted a lunch in his honour. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval gave the Saudi side a detailed ‘virtual’ dossier nailing Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama.
While appreciating Modi’s personal efforts to foster friendly relations with Pakistan, both sides agreed to work towards “creation of conditions necessary for the resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan.”
The two leaders then witnessed the exchange of five agreements on tourism, infrastructure, investments, housing and broadcasting. Saudi Arabia also signed the Framework Agreement on the International Solar Alliance. Apart from a joint naval exercise later this year, the two sides decided to explore ways to strengthen maritime cooperation.
In his subsequent address, MbS, said terrorism and extremism were common concerns, and pledged all cooperation to fight it “not just with India but also with the neighbouring nations”.
On the economic front, Saudi Arabia would invest some $100 billion in India, including $11 billion in the Ratnagiri refinery, which also has investments from the UAE.
Among other things, the crown prince also agreed to increase India’s Haj quota to two lakh. India has extended e-visa facilities to Saudi nationals.