The Narendra Modi-government has cemented ties with all Gulf countries, including arch rivals Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, besides the UAE, across economic, security and strategic areas. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit is a testament to this.

What is the significance of Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India?

Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, will be in India next week on his first visit since he became the Saudi Crown Prince in June 2017. Salman’s visit to the G20 meet in Argentina last December had helped him shake off some of the negative impact of his alleged involvement in Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, but his current swing through Asia, including India, Pakistan, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, is expected to signal his return to the international centre stage.

What does India expect from the visit?

On the sidelines of the G20 meet in Argentina, Prime Minister Modi had met MBS to discuss Saudi oil giant Aramco’s investment in Indian refineries, including the construction of a large refinery on the Western coast. Besides, New Delhi is looking at Saudi Arabia to invest in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), along the lines of the UAE, to build infrastructure. Discussions on oil price stability and the possibility of India increasing its oil imports could be on the agenda. Cooperation in solar energy and ways to increase non-oil exports are other areas the two sides could talk about. 

When is the India leg, and what’s on table?

MBS will arrive in New Delhi on 19 February for a two-day visit to discuss investments in India’s energy sector, especially retail, and cooperation on international security and terrorism.

How have India-Saudi Arabia ties evolved?

Indo-Saudi ties have come a long way since the Gulf country’s open support to Islamabad against New Delhi’s interests, including the 1971 India-Pakistan war. Riyadh’s acceptance of the 2006 invitation to have then Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud as the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations was the turning point in bilateral ties. In 2014, a defence cooperation pact was signed during King Salman’s visit to India. PM Modi’s visit in 2016 further enhanced security cooperation, including anti-terrorism measures.

Where do Saudi-Pak relations stand?

In the early 1970s, King Faisal and Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had helped forge a close economic and military partnership between Islamabad and Riyadh. The close ties lasted for decades before souring when Islamabad refused to be part of a Saudi-led coalition to fight the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen in 2015. Recently, the two countries have set aside differences, with Riyadh looking at nuclear-armed Pakistan as a counter to Tehran’s move to allegedly acquire atomic bombs.

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