Pakistan isolated further as Saudi Arabia backs India's fight against terrorism3 min read . Updated: 21 Feb 2019, 12:41 AM IST
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman joins Prime Minister Narendra Modi in condemning Pulwama attack
- Mohammed Bin Salman and Narendra Modi urge all countries to ‘renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy’
New Delhi: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday joined a burgeoning list of countries in condemning the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-promoted Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), isolating Islamabad further in the process.
According to T.S Tirumurthy, secretary (economic relations) in the Indian external affairs ministry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) “condemned in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attack on Indian forces in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir". Significantly, the two leaders also urged all countries to “renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy".
The inference is obvious, given that Pakistan has employed this as a tactic to stay strategically relevant in South Asia.
The Saudi condemnation of the Pulwama attack is significant, given the Kingdom’s influential role in the Muslim world, with the Saudi monarch being the custodian of the two most sacred mosques related to Sunni Islam and the country’s close identification with Wahhabbism. The Saudi-India joint condemnation is also significant for the fact that Saudi Arabia is a key benefactor of Pakistan, which India blames for sheltering terrorist groups inimical to New Delhi such as the the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JeM.
The joint condemnation takes forward the statement issued by Saudi Arabia on 15 February, the day after the Pulwama attack, which underscored the “Kingdom’s rejection of these cowardly terrorist acts and its stand with the friendly Republic of India against terrorism and extremism, offering condolences to the families of the victims, Indian government and people and wishing the injured a speedy recovery".
To be sure, the India-Saudi Arabia joint declaration at the end of MBS’s India visit to India did not mention Pakistan by name. But a senior government official pointed out there was a specific mention of the Pulwama attack, in which a suicide bomber drove a vehicle laden with explosives into a security convoy, killing at least 40 security personnel.
This is seen as a big boost to India, which had been upset by the Saudi-Pakistan joint statement issued on 18 February that lauded Islamabad’s efforts to fight terrorism and patted Pakistan on the back for peace moves with India, including the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.
Another big takeaway was in the economic arena, with MBS pledging to invest $100 billion in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure and energy. Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar, in a Twitter post, described it as a “a huge vote of confidence in the Indian economy", adding that the areas of investment would include energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing.
But. arguably, the country’s backing of the Indian position on terrorism was the high point of the Saudi royal’s visit.
That India’s relations with Saudi Arabia would be seen as independent of Saudi-Pakistan ties became evident when the Saudi Crown Prince acceded to an Indian request not to come to India directly after a visit to Islamabad.
The Saudi royal, who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday, returned home late on Monday and then came to India on Tuesday.
Talks on Wednesday were described as marked by great warmth and friendship—seen in the handshakes and smiles exchanged by Modi and Mohammed bin Salman. This is the second meeting between the two in the last three months, the previous one being on the sidelines of the G20 in Argentina in December.
“They (Saudi Arabia and India) called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, cut off any kind of support and financing to terrorists from all territories against other states and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice," said Tirumurthy.
Denial of access to weapons to commit terrorist acts against other countries and the importance of “comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organizations by the United Nations" were also emphasized by the two leaders, he said.
MBS appreciated the efforts made by India in the past four years to normalize ties with Pakistan, Tirumurthy said. “In this context, both sides agreed on the need for the creation of conditions necessary for the resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan," he said.
In a bid to boost bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the two countries agreed to launch a comprehensive security dialogue and a joint working group on terrorism.
Broadening their strategic partnership, Modi and MBS agreed to step up defence cooperation and join hands to become net security providers in the Indian Ocean region, Tirumurthy said.
The $100 billion investment pledge, Tirumurthy said, was a “clear reflection" of the confidence of Saudi Arabia in the “vibrancy of the Indian economy".
The obvious contrast drawn here was with Pakistan, where on Sunday the two countries signed agreements that saw Riyadh pledging $20 billion in investments.