(Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

India, Saudi Arabia broaden strategic ties with Prince Salman's visit

  • Apart from enhanced security cooperation, there is a new impetus to investment
  • Crown prince acknowledged India’s stance on terrorism, accepting that talks with Pakistan and terrorism cannot go together

NEW DELHI: The visit this week by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has broadened and deepened the strategic partnership between India and the key West Asian country, substantially enhancing security cooperation including counter terrorism and giving a new impetus to investment, two people familiar with the development said on Thursday.

The crown prince, known by his initials MBS, in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, acknowledged India’s stance on terrorism, implicitly accepting India’s position that talks with Pakistan and terrorism cannot go together.

In his talks with Modi, MBS also evinced interest in transforming India’s west coast into a petrochemical export hub, guaranteeing fuel linkage between his country and energy-starved India.

India was MBS’s second destination during a three-nation Asia tour. It came against the backdrop of the 14 February Pulwama suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in which at least 40 jawans were killed. The Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack in a video and a statement to the media. India withdrew trade privileges extended to Pakistan and launched a diplomatic offensive to isolate the country, calling in ambassadors of key countries to brief them on the support given by Islamabad to terrorist groups on its soil.

Appreciation of India’s concerns on terrorism was underlined in an offer made by the Saudi crown prince to enhance intelligence sharing with India, according to one of the people mentioned above.

“The crown prince acknowledged and appreciated the efforts made by the prime minister since May 2014 ... to have friendly relations with Pakistan. There was a clear recognition that conditions have to be created for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan. You know that the Saudi side in the recent past has displayed greater understanding of our compulsions and acknowledged that in the joint statement that these (disputes) are bilateral issues," said the person mentioned above.

Another major takeaway from the MBS visit was the security dialogue between the two national security advisors, besides a joint working group on counter terrorism that would boost cooperation, the person mentioned above said. The dialogue was expected to start later this year.

On the economic front, MBS in his conversation with Modi had remarked that the investment opportunity in India was “magnificent", a major endorsement of the Indian growth story, the person mentioned above said. The Saudi royal saw a potential of investing $100 billion in India in a slew of areas from agriculture to manufacturing.

The prince also said that “India could well be a centre for their investments and cater to this region particularly in petrochemicals and downstream products and that the supply chains can be integrated with India", the person said.

India to stop water flowing to Pakistan

India has decided to “stop" the flow of its share of water to Pakistan from rivers, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Thursday. “Under the leadership of Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji, Our Govt. has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan. We will divert water from Eastern rivers and supply it to our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab," he tweeted.