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PM Narendra Modi likely to visit riyadh later this month

The trip will be Modi’s second to the Gulf nation and will reinforce the strategic partnership.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 08, 2019, 10.33 AM IST
Modi and the Crown Prince share a personal chemistry, which was evident when the Saudi leader visited India in February after the Pulwama terrorist attacks.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit Saudi Arabia later this month, which is expected to coincide with a mega economic summit that the Gulf’s biggest country is hosting.

Both countries are preparing for his visit to Riyadh, which comes in the backdrop of Pakistan’s shrill rhetoric on Kashmir and threats of a nuclear war.

The visit, if it materializes, is also expected to enable India to convey to the Kingdom’s highest political office its rationale behind the August 5 decision to abrogate Article 370, pertaining to Kashmir’s autonomy.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is currently in Saudi Arabia to prepare for the trip, after Modi was invited for the Future Investment Initiative 2019 to be held on October 29-31 in Riyadh.

During Doval’s meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh on Wednesday, Mohammed Bin Salman expressed understanding about India’s approach and actions in Kashmir. Doval also met his Saudi Arabian counterpart to discuss the security partnership.

The trip is expected to be Modi’s second to the Gulf nation and will reinforce the strategic partnership, according to people familiar with the developments.

Modi visited Riyadh during his first term, giving a major impetus to the partnership.

It will also enable Modi to seek investments from Saudi Arabia in key sectors amid the Kingdom’s plan to invest $100 billion in the country. Saudi Arabia plans to invest in India’s energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining sectors, ET has learnt.

Saudi Aramco’s proposed investments, such as its $44 billion refinery and petrochemicals project in Maharashtra and a long-term partnership with Reliance Industries, are part of its big plans for India’s energy sector.

Modi and the Crown Prince share a personal chemistry, which was evident when the Saudi leader visited India in February after the Pulwama terrorist attacks. Salman, or MBS as he is commonly referred to, had heeded to India’s request to make the trip a standalone visit, after he returned home from a visit to Islamabad prior to the New Delhi leg.

The Crown Prince had offered to cooperate on intelligence sharing to fight extremism and terrorism.

With Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan talking up threats of a nuclear war since August 5, the Saudi Arabian and UAE foreign ministers also visited Islamabad to advice against any hasty steps.

Saudi Arabia, unlike Turkey or Malaysia, has refused to take sides after the abrogation of Article 370.

Riyadh and a few other members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, who are currently part of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), were not parties to any Pakistani plan at Geneva to bring either an Urgent Debate or Resolution on the Kashmir issue.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that a technical snag may not have been the reason why Khan was forced to return to New York after taking off from the John F Kennedy airport.

The Saudi Arabian authorities, who had given a special plane to the Pakistan PM to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly last week, were upset with him over his offer to mediate in the Iran crisis, and also his repeated threats of a nuclear war and attempts to transform Kashmir into an Islamic issue, according to the reports.

They may have ordered the special flight to return to New York, after it took off last Friday. Khan had to then leave by a commercial flight as the “snag” could not be rectified overnight, according to the reports.

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