No positive move by Pakistan to India, Modi to tell MbS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS)

Two days after Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman lauded Islamabad for its offer of talks with New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday tell him that India has not yet seen any “constructive approach” from Pakistan.

Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a MbS, has arrived in New Delhi late in the evening on Tuesday for a two-day tour to India. He will hold a meeting with Prime Minister at Hyderabad House on Wednesday. He will also have a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind before travelling to China.

Modi and MbS are likely to announce the launching of a Strategic Partnership Council. They are also likely to agree upon ways to step up bilateral defence cooperation, including in the areas of joint production of military hardware and joint war drills, beginning with joint naval exercises.

As MbS, who also holds the office of the Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, is visiting Pakistan and India, at a time when the killing of 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in a suicide attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed on February 14 last escalated tension between the two neighbouring nations. New Delhi launched a diplomatic campaign to expose Pakistan's role in exporting terror to India. Islamabad, on the other hand, not only dismissed the allegation by New Delhi, but also sought to turn the table by using the hearing on the case of former Indian Navy officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, at the International Court of Justice to blame India for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, particularly in restive Balochistan.

A joint statement issued after MbS's meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday reiterated commitment of Riyadh and Islamabad to “continue combating extremism and terrorism”. They expressed “deep appreciation” for “the achievements and sacrifices” made by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan “in the war against terrorism”.

Saudi Arabia's acknowledgement and appreciation for “achievements and sacrifices” of Pakistan were not music to the ears in India. New Delhi, however, sought to play it down ahead of Modi-MbS meeting, with sources saying that notwithstanding the traditional ties between Riyadh and Islamabad, Saudi Arabia's position on the issue of Kashmir and cross-border terror emanating from Pakistan and targeting India had evolved over the past few years.

“The Kingdom has shown greater understanding of our terrorism-related concerns and also agreed to work with India in countering this global menace,” T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) at the Ministry of External Affairs, said. “We appreciate (the) Kingdom’s cooperation in security and counter terrorism areas over the years.” New Delhi and Riyadh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in exchange of intelligence related to money laundering and terrorism financing during Prime Minister's visit to Riyadh in April 2016.

Though Saudi Arabia once supported Pakistan's position on its dispute with India over Kashmir, the joint statement issued after Khan-MbS talks in Islamabad on Monday did not have any reference to it. The kingdom's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, however, noted that the dialogue was the only way to resolve outstanding issues and to ensure peace and stability in the region.

MbS too praised “openness and efforts” of Khan for dialogue with India.

Sources told the DH on Tuesday that Prime Minister would expose the duplicity of Pakistan on the issue of engagement with India when he would host Saudi Arabian Crown Prince in the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday.

He would convey to MbS that while Khan Government in Islamabad, on one hand, offered dialogue with New Delhi, it continued to sponsor and provide safe haven to terrorist organizations, like JeM or the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, on the other, so that they could send in terrorists from Pakistan to carry out attacks in India.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince commenced his maiden tour to Asia with a visit to Pakistan on Sunday and Monday. He returned to Riyadh after concluding his visit to Islamabad late in the afternoon on Monday, instead of flying directly to New Delhi – a move, which is intended to de-hyphenate his visits to Pakistan and India.

His itinerary in Asia included Malaysia and Indonesia too. He was scheduled to visit the two South East Asian nations after concluding his tour to Pakistan and before before commencing the one in India. Since Malaysia and Indonesia were dropped from his itinerary, speculation was rife if he would fly directly from Islamabad to New Delhi on late in the evening on Monday or early Tuesday.

New Delhi, however, subtly nudged Riyadh against starting his visit to India immediately after the one to Pakistan, as it would be tantamount to hyphenating Saudi Arabia's relations with the two South Asian neighbours.

Tirumurti noted that Saudi Arabia had strongly condemned and denounced the terrorist attack on paramilitary forces at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir.

The MbS's visit to Islamabad on Sunday and Monday saw Saudi Arabia pledging to invest about $ 20 billion in Pakistan. During his visit to New Delhi, he is also likely to announce an initial investment by Saudi Arabia into National Infrastructure Investment Fund of India. Modi and Mohammad bin Salman (a.k.a MBS) will also discuss the possibility of enhancing Saudi Arabia's investment in India, particularly in energy, technology and agriculture sectors.

Tirumurti, Secretary (ER) at the MEA, said that India and Saudi Arabia were expected to sign five MoUs or agreements during the visit of MbS in areas of investment, tourism, housing and information and broadcasting.

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No positive move by Pakistan to India, Modi to tell MbS


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