Crown Prince’s visit to India: Focus on strategic alliance

February 19, 2019

Saudi Gazette report

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening on his first state visit to India that is expected to focus on further deepening strategic partnership between the two countries.

In a special gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Air Force Station Palam Airport along with other dignitaries to welcome the Crown Prince, embraced him in a bear hug as soon as he walked down the stairs of his plane, signifying the importance India attaches to the visit by the leader of the powerful Gulf nation.

Those who arrived at airport to receive the Crown Prince also included India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V.K Singh, Saudi Ambassador to India Saud Al-Sati and Indian Ambassador to the Kingdom Ahmed Javed and other high ranking Indian civil and military officials.

“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 a “new chapter” in bilateral relations between the two countries.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “A new chapter in bilateral relations. Breaking protocol, PM @narendramodi personally receives HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as he arrives on his first bilateral visit to India!”

Modi and the Crown Prince will hold extensive talks on Wednesday at Hyderabad House and the talks are expected to focus on ways to enhance defense ties, including holding a joint naval exercise, official sources said.

Over the next 26 hours that the Crown Prince spends in the national capital, officials have said, the focus would be on strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries. New Delhi and Riyadh will set up a Strategic Partnership Council at the ministerial level.

The two sides are expected to seal five pacts related to investment, tourism, housing, and broadcasting.

Both sides are also exploring the possibility of elevating the defense engagement with joint production and joint exercises, particularly joint naval exercises.

Modi will host a luncheon banquet in honor of the Crown Prince and the accompanying delegation.

India has been identified as one of the eight strategic partners with whom Saudi Arabia intends to deepen partnership in areas of political, security, trade, investment and culture.

Ties between the two countries have strengthened since PM Modi’s Riyadh visit in 2016 and signing of agreement on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Crown Prince is to leave India late Wednesday for China, on the last leg of his three-nation Asian tour.

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