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'Terrorism a common concern; Riyadh ready to share intelligence with New Delhi': MBS in India

Updated February 20, 2019

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind (C) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R). ─ AP
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind (C) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R). ─ AP
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman shakes hands with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind during a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks on. ─ Photo courtesy President of India Twitter
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman shakes hands with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind during a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks on. ─ Photo courtesy President of India Twitter

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in a joint statement issued during his day-long visit to India on Wednesday described terrorism and extremism as a common concern and said that Riyadh is ready to share intelligence with New Delhi to tackle these issues.

Prince Mohammad arrived in Delhi on Tuesday night, a day after wrapping up a historical visit to Islamabad in which he signed $20 billion worth of agreements in the "first phase" of Saudi investment in Pakistan.

His visit to Pakistan came days after the Pulwama attack in occupied Kashmir ─ which India has blamed on Pakistan and the latter has denied ─ and the subject of "cross-border terrorism" was expected to come up during his interactions with top Indian leadership today.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure to act in the wake of the Pulwama attack, particularly since he is looking to contest an election in the coming months.

Modi in his joint statement today described the Pulwama attack as "a symbol of the anti-humanitarian threat the world is facing", Times of India reported.

The Associated Press quoted Modi saying ─ without naming Pakistan ─ that "in order to deal effectively with this threat, we agree that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting any type of terrorism."

He added: "It is the need of the hour to take appropriate action against the infrastructure of terrorism. It is very important to punish the terrorists and all their supporters."

Modi in his remarks at the media briefing referred to the attack on the Indian soldiers and said that effective steps would be taken to punish the perpetrators and their supporters without elaborating further.

"Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counter-terrorism and tackling cyber crimes," he said.

Modi also called for a strong action plan for combating extremism so that powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth, the Associated Press reported.

Find out more: In Kashmir, brutality of videos deepens anger against India

Prince Mohammad, in a statement following Modi's, said that terrorism and extremism are a common threat to both Saudi Arabia and India, and that Riyadh would cooperate with Delhi in every aspect, including intelligence sharing, The Indian Express reported.

"We would like to tell our friend India that we'll cooperate on all fronts, be it intelligence sharing," he said, vowing to "work with everyone to ensure a brighter future for our upcoming generations".

MBS said that he saw potential for $100 billion investment in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services in India, and said the two countries would evolve a strategy for mutual gains.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman receives a Guard of Honour at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. ─ Photo courtesy President of India Twitter
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman receives a Guard of Honour at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. ─ Photo courtesy President of India Twitter

Earlier today, President Ram Nath Kovind received the crown prince at the Presidential Palace in Delhi.

The prince, who was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, had said on the occasion that Riyadh wishes to maintain and improve ties with Delhi "for the sake of both countries".

"With the leadership of the president and the prime minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India," Prince Mohammad said, according to Asia News International.

"I admire PM Modi. He is the elder brother and I am his younger brother," he added.

Describing Indian people as "our friends", the crown prince had said that Indians have helped build Saudi Arabia for 70 years. "During this trip we will show few examples of work Saudi people did in India," he said.

After the reception at the palace, Prince Mohammad held a brief meeting with Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.

He then had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed by delegation level talks.

Both countries signed five agreements in the fields of investment, tourism, cooperation in housing, a Framework Cooperation Programme to enhance bilateral relations, and cooperation in broadcasting, according to India Today.

The crown prince, known as MBS for short, arrived in India with an entourage of ministers and businessmen on Tuesday night after visiting Pakistan. He was welcomed at the airport by Modi, who embraced him in a characteristic bear hug.

In pictures: Pakistan pulls out all the stops to welcome Saudi crown prince

Ties between India and Saudi Arabia, where millions of Indians are employed as migrant workers, have strengthened since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The two countries' two-way trade totalled $27.5 billion last year. MBS today said that Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.

India describes Saudi Arabia as a "key pillar" of its energy security since it provides about 17 per cent of India's crude oil and about a third of its liquefied natural gas.

The relationship may be more key as a deadline nears for India to comply with United States sanctions against Iran, India's largest oil provider.