At a time when India is stepping up efforts to brand the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group’s chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist at the UN Security Council, Saudi Arabia and India on Wednesday “underlined the importance of comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organisations by the UN”.
This is the new formulation in the India-Saudi Arabia joint statement, which came two days after Pakistan and Saudi Arabia called for avoiding the “politicisation” of the UN listing regime.
Watch video: Saudi Prince condemns terrorism in talk with India
While the visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not mention the Pulwama terror attack in his remarks after the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the joint statement issued late on Wednesday night said that the “Prime Minister and His Royal Highness condemned in the strongest terms, the recent terrorist attack on Indian security forces on 14 February, 2019 in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir”.
Saudi balancing act between India and Pakistan
Two days ago, the Saudi-Pak statement warned against politicisation of the listing regime (an apparent reference to India’s demand to blacklist Jaish chief Azhar). Now Riyadh has done a balancing act in Delhi underlining the importance of UN sanctioning. What’s unusual is that the joint statement refers to the need for India-Pak talks — with a rider that conditions should be conducive.
Much of the paragraph on terrorism (Para 35) was word-for-word same as in April 2016, when Modi had visited Riyadh: “Affirming that the menace of extremism and terrorism threatens all nations and societies, the two sides rejected any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture. Both sides called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries; dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist and to cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists perpetrating terrorism from all territories against other states; and bring perpetrators of acts of terrorism to justice”.
“The two sides also noted the need for concerted action by the international community against terrorism including through early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and underlined the importance of comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organisations by the UN”, it said. While the reference to CCIT was there in 2016 as well, the “sanctioning of terrorists” is a new phrase.
Both sides called up on all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an “instrument of state policy”. While Delhi interprets it as a reference to Pakistan, Saudis will view it from their perspective of Iran. “They also called upon all states to deny access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries,” it said.
In an unusual addition, Pakistan was included in the joint statement. “His Royal Highness appreciated consistent efforts made by Prime Minister Modi since May 2014 including Prime Minister’s personal initiatives to have friendly relations with Pakistan”, it said. And added that in this context, “both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”. India has always maintained that it is incumbent upon Pakistan to create an atmosphere free of terrorism, which is conducive to dialogue.
In the Saudi-Pakistan joint statement also, there was mention of India. “During the official talks in Islamabad, the Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense praised openness and efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan for dialogue with India and the opening of the Kartarpur crossing point and the efforts exerted by both sides, stressing that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues”, it had said.
The joint statement also talked about “potential” investments of $100 billion in India — as compared to $20 billion in Pakistan — in energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining, manufacturing, education and health.
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The two sides agreed to cement the existing ‘Strategic Partnership’ with ‘high level monitoring mechanism by the creation of Strategic Partnership Council led by Prime Minister and Crown Prince, supported by ministerial representation covering the whole spectrum of strategic relationships.
Sources told The Indian Express that it was MBS idea, which he had proposed to Modi during their meeting in Argentina during the G-20 summit last November. Earlier, after the bilateral meeting with the Crown Prince, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they were in agreement that there was a need to ramp up pressure on countries extending any sort of support to terrorism.
“Last week’s barbaric Pulwama attack was a symbol of the shadow of the inhuman danger hovering over the world. To deal with the scourge, we have agreed that there was a need to ramp up pressure on countries extending any sort of support to terrorism,” Modi said, without naming Pakistan.
The Crown Prince said: “As far as terrorism and extremism are concerned, which are common concerns, I want to tell India that we will extend all cooperation to you — be it intelligence sharing…not only with India but also with the neighbouring countries.” T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the MEA, said the two leaders also called upon countries to renounce use of terrorism as a state policy. Complicity of Pakistan in the Pulwama attack was underlined during the talks, he said, adding both Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed condemned the Pulwama attack.
Asked about Saudi-Pakistan joint statement on “politicisation” of the UN listing regime, Tirumurti said, “If you are really looking at politicisation, you know who is politicising it?”
Modi called for a strong action plan to combat extremism so that powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth. He also said that both sides agreed that stronger bilateral cooperation in areas such as counter terrorism, maritime security and cyber security will be beneficial for the two countries.
After the “extensive and successful” bilateral talks, the two sides signed five pacts to expand cooperation in a range of areas, including trade and investment. The two countries also agreed to establish a biennial summit and a strategic partnership council, Modi said.