Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Riyadh Saturday for his first official visit to Saudi Arabia, which also marks the final stop of his three-nation trip after visiting Belgium and the United States. The visit is being seen as a diplomatic push to strengthen relations with a country largely seen as a close ally of Pakistan.
"Reached Saudi Arabia. I look forward to a productive visit that will strengthen our bilateral relations," Modi tweeted after touching down in Riyadh. The Indian leader was greeted at the Khalid International Airport by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, the governor of Riyadh, according to Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
The two nations are expected to enhance cooperation in the areas of security and counter-terrorism. Modi will also seek investments from Saudi Arabia to India, especially in infrastructure projects.
"We want the prominent Saudi businesses to partner with India's development priorities. That would be one of the key objectives of the business event planned in Riyadh," the Indian prime minister had said in a statement earlier this week.
Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia comes on the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and the two leaders are set to hold bilateral talks Sunday. During the talks, Modi is expected to raise the issue of terrorism in Pakistan, a close ally of Riyadh, according to the Press Trust of India.
Modi's Saudi Arabia visit is being seen as a step to move closer to Pakistan's allies, and comes months after his visit to Islamabad-ally United Arab Emirates last year.
"It's simple. We have to do everything to deal with Pakistan - use economics, strategy and emotional ties to win the hearts of Islamabad's friends," Ram Madhav, national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, told Reuters. Other government officials told the news agency Modi's visit will help to "de-hyphenate" India and Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia has so far been an important strategic partner of Delhi, especially since it is the largest crude oil supplier to India and also its fourth-largest trading partner. The Middle Eastern country is also home to nearly 3.5 million Indian expats.