Terrorism a common concern, says Saudi crown prince after talks with Modi

India got MbS to condemn the Pulwama terror attack in the strongest terms

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman | Arvind Jain Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman | Arvind Jain

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's New Delhi visit, close on the heels of his Islamabad one, was a tightrope walk. A lot of statements denouncing terrorism were made during the state visit, which occurred under the shadow of the Pulwama attacks that re-opened hostilities between India and Pakistan.

Salman agreed on the need for comprehensive sanctions on terrorists and terror organisations. Though no names were taken, it is clear that India got the Saudi prince to agree that Masood Azhar, of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, should be proscribed an international terrorist by the United Nations. While the JeM is proscribed, Azhar had managed to stay out of the list, thanks to China, which has persistently stalled efforts to blacklist him. Interestingly, the earlier joint statement made by MbS (the prince) and the Pakistan government had cautioned against the politicisation of the UN listing regime.

However, India got MbS to condemn the Pulwama terror attack in the strongest terms. According to the ministry of external affairs, both leaders called on the states to dismantle terror infrastructure, cut off terror financing, and bring the perpetrators to justice. From India's point of view, all these statements point to only one country—Pakistan. The two sides also called on nations to renounce terrorism as a state policy, and to deny weapons to terrorists who were launching attacks on other countries. They called for comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and terror organisations by the United Nations, and spoke on the need for concerted action by the international community.

MbS promised Pakistan a 20 billion dollar bail-out package. In India, he announced that Saudi Arabia will invest 100 billion dollars, which the country sees as a huge vote of confidence in its economic growth. These investments will be made in the sectors of infrastructure, refineries, agriculture and manufacturing.

The two countries have agreed to set up a Strategic Partnership Council, with ministerial representations, guided by the Indian prime minister and the crown prince. This development is in line with Saudi Arabia's desire to ensure engagement with the eight nations that it has strategic partnership with. India is one of those.

PM Modi received plaudits for his efforts in reaching out to Pakistan since he took over in 2014, and both sides agreed on the need to create conditions necessary for resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.

A joint naval exercise has been confirmed. Saudi Arabia also agreed with India's line on regional connectivity projects, namely China's Belt and Road initiative. According to MEA, the two agreed that such projects should be based on internationally recognised norms, including respecting the sovereignty of other nations. This is a direct dig at the BRI's flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

In Pakistan and China, however, the narrative is that Saudi Arabia's bailout package, which could fund industries in the Gwadar port region, is a shot in the arm for the CPEC. As MbS heads to Beijing for the next leg of his Asia tour, there will be more to watch out for.