Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has concluded his Pakistan trip and has returned to Riyadh. The prince is now set to arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday, February 19, evening and is expected to be accompanied by his ministers as well as a business delegation.
Prince Salman flew home from Islamabad on Monday, reportedly keeping in mind India's sensitiveness on its relations with Pakistan after the recent Pulwama terror attack that killed over 45 CRPF jawans and injured many others. India conveyed to the Saudi officials that the royal visiting New Delhi immediately after Pakistan was not acceptable, a source told Livemint.
Key agenda of MBS' visit
- The Saudi crown prince will arrive on Tuesday and receive a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday, February 20. He is set to meet Indian prime minister Narendra Modi after that who will host him at lunch.
- The bilateral talks are expected to strengthen ties between the two nations. While India already believes that relations with Saudi Arabia have undergone quite a massive change and the two nations have worked well when it comes to defence cooperation and intelligence sharing, Riyadh has also said that it hopes to "deepen partnership" in regard to security, trade, investment and culture, the Press Trust of India quoted senior foreign ministry official TS Tirumurti as saying.
- Revealing the agenda, India's foreign ministry said that matter likely to be discussed are "trade and investment, defence and security, including counterterrorism, and renewable energy."
- During the visit, Saudi Arabia and India are likely to sign a document on Strategic Partnership Council, which will then see the two nations carrying out joint naval exercises.
Explaining the idea behind the Strategic Partnership Council, Tirumurti added: "We are confident that this will give greater thrust to our strategic partnership and take forward our discussions in a focused and action-oriented manner. This engagement has already begun between authorities concerned of both countries in select sectors of mutual interest especially in trade, investment and economic issues."
- During the meet, Prince Salman and Modi will oversee the signing five investment, energy and housing sector deals.
- Saudi Arabia will also join International Solar Alliance and the two nations are said to be increasing their collaboration in the energy sector with Saudi Arabia's Aramco taking an interest in the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Project Ltd, a $44 billion joint venture between India, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
- The two nations are also likely to issue a joint statement on terrorism, after Saudi Arabia vowed to "de-escalate" the tensions between India and Pakistan.
- Prince Salman is then set to fly out to China where he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday. The two leaders will discuss and "deepen cooperation" on China's Belt and Road Initiative, according to foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Prince Salman's three-country Asian visit is being seen as Saudi Arabia's way of making a point to the West that the prince still has friends in Asia. Prince Salman has been under the scanner after the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the prince and his policies, was reportedly killed on the orders of Salman.