Modi meets tainted Saudi prince, gets investment pledge

Modi meets tainted Saudi prince, gets investment pledge

The two leaders, who are currently in Argentina for the G20 summit, met in the prince's residence in Buenos Aires and discussed Saudi Arabia's readiness to supply India with oil and petroleum products.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman al Saud, in Buenos Aires early Friday – notwithstanding the global outrage against the young royal for the recent brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

With Riyadh ready to walk the extra miles to regain global acceptance for the tainted Crown Prince of the kingdom, the meeting saw Mohammad bin Salman promising Modi to scale up Saudi Arabia’s investment in India over the next two or three years. Prime Minister also requested Saudi Arabian Crown Prince to help stabilize the energy prices, particularly for India, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told journalists after the meeting.  

Modi is in Buenos Aires to take part in the G20 summit scheduled to be held in the capital of Argentina on Friday and Saturday. He had the bilateral meeting with the Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a MBS, on the sideline of the summit.

Riyadh reached out to New Delhi requesting for the bilateral meeting between Modi and Mohammad bin Salman during their stay in Buenos Aires – ostensibly as part of a wider outreach by Saudi Arabia to make it sure that its Crown Prince does not end up as a pariah during the summit.  

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) – a global human rights organization – recently urged Argentinean Government to use a clause related to war crimes in the constitution of the country to prosecute the Saudi Arabian prince on his arrival in Buenos Aires for a series of crimes against humanity, including murder of Khashoggi, atrocities on citizens of the kingdom itself and killing of civilians during the war in neighbouring Yemen.  

Argentina’s Federal Judge Ariel Lijo agreed to a request from prosecutor Ramiro Gonzalez to determine if other courts or agencies in foreign countries, like Turkey and Yemen, were investigating MBS for possible crimes against humanity, thus making the first move before deciding on starting a probe in the South American nation itself. He also asked Argentine Foreign Ministry to submit a report on the question of the Saudi Crown Prince's immunity and diplomatic status. Though MBS is enjoying diplomatic immunity during his visit to Buenos Aires, the move by judiciary in Argentina came as an embarrassment for Saudi Arabia.

The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2 triggered a global outrage against MBS, with speculation rife that the Crown Prince, himself, ordered or knew about the killing. Khashoggi, a columnist of Washington Post, was a known critic of Saudi Arabia's royal family.

The Crown Prince is participating in the G20 summit on behalf of his father King Salman – apparently in an attempt to restore his international acceptance.

Though the leaders of some western democracies are likely to avoid meeting MBS on the sideline of the summit, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are likely to hold bilateral consultations with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

New Delhi too agreed on a meeting between Modi and MBS in Buenos Aires, in view of its relations with Riyadh.

Foreign Secretary said that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince had informed the Prime Minister about Riyadh’s move towards finalization of “an initial investment into the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund of India. MBS had also referred to the future prospects for Saudi Arabian investment in India, including in sectors like technology, agriculture and energy. “Prime Minister, in particular, stressed about the importance of having stable and predictable energy prices and some discussions took place between the two leaders on how Saudi Arabia can contribute and help in stabilizing energy prices particularly for India,” said Gokhale.

Modi and MBS also agreed to set up a mechanism at the “leadership level” to explore “possibilities of concrete action” for Saudi Arabian investment in India and bilateral cooperation in manufacturing across various sectors, apart from cooperation in energy, food security, infrastructure, and defence. “This mechanism will be worked out shortly and we will expect that in the next two to three years there will be significant scaling up in Saudi investment in India,” said Foreign Secretary.