Ahead of the plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has made a short visit to Saudi Arabia — the first Arab country to become a member of the FATF in June this year — as part of India’s diplomatic offensive strategy to push for blacklisting of Pakistan.
During his two-day visit beginning Tuesday, Doval met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to enlist Riyadh’s support. The FATF plenary session and working group meetings are scheduled to be held from October 13 to 18.
Doval also held separate meetings with Dr Musaid Bin M Al Aiban, Saudi Minister of State and NSA, and other senior Saudi officials, India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ausaf Sayeed, said.
“NSA Ajit Doval was on a short visit to Saudi Arabia, during which he had detailed discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The two sides reviewed bilateral, regional and international issues and reviewed strong and fraternal bilateral ties between the two countries. Saudi Arabia and FATF in mind, Doval makes quick trip to Saudi, meets MBS India are set to establish a Strategic Partnership Council, co-chaired by PM Modi & Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” Sayeed tweeted on Wednesday.
Sources told The Indian Express that Doval’s visit was part of India’s diplomatic effort to reach out to the current members of the FATF. Saudi Arabia, which had received an invitation from the FATF at the beginning of 2015 to join as an “observer member”, was admitted into the organisation after the group’s meeting in Orlando, Florida, on June 21 this year.
Pakistan, which was put in the greylist last year under the FATF chairmanship of the US, has to meet a series of commitments. The assessments so far have indicated that it has not met most of those commitments, and faces the threat of being blacklisted during the plenary session.
But, with Pakistan’s all-weather ally China as the current chair of FATF, Delhi has cranked up its diplomatic outreach to the 39 members — 37 countries and two regional organisations (Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Commission).
Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met their counterparts of many of these FATF member countries in the last few weeks, especially at the UN in New York.
While Modi met leaders from Belgium, France, US, UK, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa among others at the UN, Jaishankar met his counterparts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Japan in New York. He also met his counterparts from the two regional organisations in the FATF — the GCC and the EC.
Earlier, Jaishankar met leaders from Finland — on his way to New York — and his counterparts from France, Germany, Canada. Doval and Jaishankar had also visited Russia separately.
According to sources, between Modi, Jaishankar and Doval, they have had meetings with leaders and ministers from at least 24 of the 37 member countries in the last few weeks.
Sources said India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been on the rise in the last few years, beginning with Modi’s visit to Riyadh in 2016. What has helped in the last two months is that Saudi Arabia has not taken any adverse position on Jammu and Kashmir. After August 5, a Saudi statement said it was “following up the current situation in J&K resulting from India’s abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution, which guarantees the autonomy of J&K”.
“While expressing its concern over the latest developments, the Kingdom affirms that the settlement of the conflict is through peaceful settlement, in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, and calls on the parties concerned to maintain peace and stability in the region and to take into account the interests of the people of the region,” it said.
While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia on his way to New York, Riyadh has been careful in not making any negative statements on J&K.
Sources said India and Saudi Arabia have been closely cooperating with each other in fighting terrorism, including through exchange of information and intelligence. In the last couple of years, both countries signed several agreements in the field of security, including an extradition treaty.
On September 14, when a series of drone and missile attacks hit the oil facilities of Saudi Aramco, the country’s national petroleum company, the MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We condemn the attacks… targeting Abqaiq oil processing facility and Khurais oil field in Saudi Arabia. We reiterate our resolve to oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”