PM Modi to hold talks with Saudi Crown Prince today; Cross-border terrorism tops agenda

Deepika S

New Delhi, Feb 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday received Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he arrived in New Delhi for a day's visit.

The Crown Prince arrived here on a less than 30-hour visit, a day after concluding his high-profile tour of Pakistan where he said dialogue was the only way to resolve "outstanding issues" between India and Pakistan.

Upon the arrival of the Saudi Crown Prince, 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!"

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

Meanwhile, the Saudi leader is scheduled to hold extensive discussions with Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday during which India is likely to raise the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. During their talks on Wednesday, Modi and Salman are also expected to look at ways to enhance the defence ties.

Saudi Arabia has vowed to "de-escalate" rising tensions between Pakistan and India during the high-profile summit in Islamabad. The joint statement said during the talks, the Crown Prince and the Deputy Prime Minister also stressed that "dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues".

"They also underlined the need for avoiding politicisation of UN listing regime," the joint statement said in an apparent reference to India's effort to include list Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under UN rules. Jaish has taken responsibility for Thursday's attack in Pulwama.

The Saudi prince's visit comes nearly three years after PM Modi's visit to Riyadh in 2016, during which the two nations expanded cooperation across diverse areas including trade, investment and counter-terrorism. The two nations had also inked a pact on the exchange of intelligence related to money laundering and terrorism

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