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Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets ceremonial welcome, talks with PM Modi today

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday arrived in New Delhi on his first state visit to India.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2019 11:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Narendra Modi,Saudi Crown Prince,India
Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman was given ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.(Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

President Ram Nath Kovind accorded ceremonial welcome to Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Wednesday ahead of his scheduled bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Prince Salman arrived in the national capital on Tuesday evening on a two-day visit to India.

At the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Prince Salman said, “Today we want to be sure that this relation is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries. With the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit is expected to focus on deepening strategic partnership between the two countries and deliver a strong message on terrorism. The crown prince reached the national capital shortly before 9 pm to a red carpet welcome.

PM Narendra Modi, who also reached the airport along with other dignitaries to welcome him, embraced him in a bear hug as soon as he walked down the stairs of his plane.

“India is delighted to welcome HRH Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” PM Modi tweeted soon after.

The foreign ministry later called the visit – the Crown Prince’s first bilateral visit – a “new chapter” in bilateral relations between the two countries.

WATCH: PM Modi welcomes Saudi Crown Prince with a warm hug

The Saudi Prince had wrapped up his high-profile Pakistan visit last evening, the first stop on his south Asia and China tour, where he vowed to “de-escalate” tensions between the two neighbours over the terror attack in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.

Also read | India to raise Pakistan’s use of cross-border terror with Saudi Arabia

Watch | PM Modi welcomes Saudi Crown Prince with a warm hug

The crown prince – widely known as MBS – returned to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan and after spending a few hours back home, took a 3,000 km flight back to the Indian subcontinent.

Over the next 26 hours that the crown prince spends in the national capital, officials have said, the focus would be to deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The two sides are also expected to seal five pacts related to investment, tourism, housing, and broadcasting.

Also read | Saudi Prince gets red carpet in Asia as Khashoggi murder strains US ties

Ties between the two countries have strengthened since PM Modi’s Riyadh in 2016 to sign an agreement on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing. Since then, there has been active intelligence and security cooperation and many instances of terror suspects such as Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abu Sufyan and Indian Mujahedeen member Zainul Abedin being sent back to India.

The crown prince’s schedule - his quick trip to Riyadh from Islamabad rather than flying from Islamabad to Delhi - was a reflection of the Saudi leadership’s appreciation of India’s sensitivities.

Officials have said Delhi’s relations with Riyadh shouldn’t be compared with those of Islamabad, where investment deals worth $ 20 billion were signed to help Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy.

“When they invest in India they’re going to invest in a very robust economy. They are not here to bail out India,” said an official, referring to Pakistan receiving Saudi aid to cope with an economic crisis.

Also read | Saudi vows to ‘de-escalate’ India-Pakistan tensions after Pulwama attack

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 21:34 IST