NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening and was warmly received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the airport.
Modi hugged the visiting Crown Prince with a hug as soon as he got off his plane. In a tweet, Modi said India is "delighted to welcome" the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince arrived here on a less than 30-hour visit, 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.
The Prime Minister and MBS, as the Saudi Crown Prince is also known, will hold bilateral talks tomorrow, during which terrorism is expected to figure prominently, particularly in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack.
India is likely to raise the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the two countries are expected to sign ties to enhance cooperation in various fields during the "landmark event in high-level bilateral ties".
Other issues likely to figure in the talks include defence and security. The two sides are expected to sign five MoUs in fields ranging from defence, healthcare etc.
A new chapter in bilateral relations— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) February 19, 2019
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! pic.twitter.com/yVADgQ2IUu
According a warm welcome, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday not only received the Crown Prince at the airport in Islamabad but also drove him to PM house.
During their talks on Wednesday, Modi and Salman are also expected to look at ways to enhancing defence ties, including having a joint naval exercise, official sources said.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Crown Prince will leave New Delhi around 11:50 PM on Wednesday.
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.
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.
According to the External Affairs Ministry, the talks on investment of US $44 billion by Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in Ratnagiri Refinery project are also likely to take place.
India is delighted to welcome HRH Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/wBK1F1UZAA— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 19, 2019
"Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visit to India will be a landmark event in the history of our high-level bilateral engagements and they will certainly take an upward strategic direction,” Arab News quoted Indian ambassador in Riyadh Ahmad Javed as saying.
In addition, there is a big transformation in Saudi understanding of terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir in the last few years. Saudi made a very strong denouncement of Pulwama terror attack and did not accept Pakistan's narrative.
India and Saudi Arabia are also expected to hold joint Naval exercises in the near future in efforts to deepen the defence ties.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has ranked India as the 8th strategic partner. Bilateral trade between the countries stood at US$ 27.48 billion during the last financial year 2017-18.
India and Saudi Arabia have historically enjoyed close and friendly relations anchored in mutually beneficial partnership and extensive people to people contacts. In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade and investment, infrastructure, defence and security.
About 2.7 million strong and vibrant Indian community forms the largest expatriate group in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also facilitates Hajj pilgrimage to over 1,75,000 Indians every year.
The Saudi Crown Prince has embarked on a four-country Asian tour that besides India, also includes Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia. He recently concluded his Pakistan visit.
(With PTI and ANI inputs)