Saudi Crown Prince condemns terror but silent on Pakistan’s role
India and Saudi Arabia agreed on the “creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”, the joint statement said.Updated: Feb 21, 2019 00:58 IST
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday condemned the Pulwama suicide attack but refrained from naming Pakistan for backing anti-India terror in a joint statement, which spoke in generic terms of the need for dismantling terrorist infrastructure and countering terror financing, while announcing investments potentially worth more than $100 billion.
The statement, issued almost nine hours after the end of formal talks between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, called on “all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy”. It made no mention of Pakistan’s role in this regard – something India has been pushing for with its key allies after the February 14 attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.
Against the backdrop of a fresh effort to sanction JeM chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations, the statement emphasised the “importance of comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organisations by the UN”.
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People familiar with developments said this helped address apprehensions created by a reference to the “politicisation” of the UN listing system in the Saudi-Pakistan joint statement earlier this week during the prince’s visit to Islamabad.
The Saudi prince appreciated “consistent efforts” by Modi since May 2014, including his personal initiatives, for friendly relations with Pakistan. The two sides agreed on the “creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”, the statement said.
Modi and the prince “condemned in the strongest terms” the Pulwama attack and called on “all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries; dismantle terrorism infrastructures... and to cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists perpetrating terrorism from all territories against other states; and bring perpetrators of acts of terrorism to justice,” it added.
India rolled out the red carpet for the Saudi prince, who was received at Palam airport on Tuesday night by Modi with a warm hug. During a media interaction with Modi, the prince described terrorism as a “common concern” for both countries and said: “I want to state we are ready to cooperate with India in every way, including through intelligence-sharing.”
Modi referred to the Pulwama attacks and said the two sides agreed on the need to “increase all possible pressure on countries supporting terrorism” and “to eliminate the terror infrastructure and stop support to terrorists”.
The Congress on Wednesday attacked the Prime Minister for receiving the crown prince at the airport. “Breaking protocol, grand welcome to those who pledged USD 20 billion to Pakistan and praised Pakistan’s ‘anti-terror’ efforts. Is it ur way of remembering martyrs of Pulwama?” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Twitter, a statement that received a sharp reaction from Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who blamed the Congress for belittling the bilateral engagement.
Amid considerable focus on the prince making no reference to Pakistan in his public remarks, people familiar with developments said he had expressed solidarity with India and spoken of the need to fight terrorism during his talks with Modi. The people also pointed to other measures agreed on to elevate the strategic partnership between the two countries, including the creation of a “Strategic Partnership Council” led by the Indian premier and the prince, which cement the existing strategic partnership by acting as a high level monitoring mechanism, the setting up of a comprehensive security dialogue by the National Security Advisers of the two countries to enhance counter-terrorism efforts and real-time intelligence-sharing and the establishment of a joint working group on counter-terrorism. They also agreed to hold summit meetings every two years.
The two sides also agreed to hold their maiden joint naval exercise and to continue cooperation on other security issues, including maritime security, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, and transnational organised crime. They agreed to promote cooperation in preventing the use of cyberspace for terror and radicalism.
Modi welcomed the prince’s announcement about investments in energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals, manufacturing, education and healthcare that would potentially be worth in excess of $100 billion, Indian officials said.
In Pakistan, the Saudi side signed agreements for investments worth $20 billion, building on financial aid it has provided to the economically crippled government.
They expressed satisfaction at the first joint venture west coast refinery and petrochemical project estimated to cost $44 billion and agreed to expedite the implementation of the project, which is expected to be the world’s largest greenfield refinery. Though the refinery was earlier to be set up at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Indian authorities are now looking for an alternative location due to opposition to land acquisition efforts.
Modi also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). A MoU on investing in the NIIF was among five agreements signed on Wednesday.
India also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s participation in its Strategic Petroleum Reserves and the decision to join the International Solar Alliance. At India’s request, Saudi Arabia increased the quota for Haj pilgrims from 175,000 to 200,000.
The Indian government agreed to increase the seats of Saudi Arabian airlines from 80,000 seats a months to 112,000 seats a month, while Saudi Arabia ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners from its jails.