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Terror, investments the focus as PM Modi lands in Saudi Arabia

Modi was given a warm welcome at the 'Royal Terminal' of the Khalid International Airport with Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, receiving him along with a number of high- ranking Saudi officials.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Riyadh |
Updated: April 3, 2016 5:03:43 pm
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Governer of Riyadh Faisal Bin Bandar al Saud at the Riyadh airport on Saturday. PTI Photo by Shirish Shete Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Governer of Riyadh Faisal Bin Bandar al Saud at the Riyadh airport on Saturday. PTI Photo by Shirish Shete

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to convey India’s appreciation of Saudi Arabia’s sanctions targeting the Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as the need to take decisive action against Pakistan-based terrorist outfits when he meets King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, sources told The Sunday Express on Saturday.

Modi arrived in Riyadh on Saturday, where he was received at the airport by the Governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

The focus of Modi’s conversations with King Salman, Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman will be on counter-terrorism cooperation. The meeting between King Salman and the PM will be over lunch, and will continue with a restricted format, followed by delegation-level talks.

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The PM will meet Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Prince Mohammed bin Salman separately before he returns to India on Sunday night.

Sources said the joint sanctions announced by Saudi Arabia and the United States against the LeT on Thursday was a “signal” that Riyadh “understands” Delhi’s concerns over terrorism. “This will be a key element in the conversation with the royal family. It will lead to greater information-sharing and military cooperation,” sources said.

The sanctions targeted four individuals and two affiliated organisations, including James Alexander McLintock and the Pakistan-based Al-Rahmah Welfare Organisation, which the U S Treasury Department said was a front for al-Qaeda.

Also listed were Abdul Aziz Nuristani, the Jamia Asariya Madrassa, Naveed Qamar and Saudi Arabia-based Muhammad Ijaz Safarash, who was accused of arranging travel documents and financial transfers for LeT from the kingdom.

After landing in Riyadh, Modi spent a couple of hours in the King Saud palace, where he is staying at the invitation of King Salman, before heading to the Masmak fort — whose capture in 1902 symbolised the establishment of the rule by the House of Saud.

He also addressed the Indian community at a luxury hotel and visited a modern residential complex, built by Larsen & Toubro, which is constructing the Riyadh Metro. Indians are Saudi’s largest expatriate community with 2.96 million people — mostly blue-collar workers.

Modi told the cheering crowd of workers that it was their sweat and toil that had brought him to Saudi Arabia, and that they had created a reputation for India that translated into opportunities for Indian youth.

“Your happiness is my happiness and when you are not happy, I also feel the same,” the PM told a group of over 300 L&T workers at their residential complex.

During his meetings with the Saudi Arabian establishment, Modi will push for Saudi investments in India. Saudi Arabia has huge forex reserves of $ 600-800 billion, and while it has been impacted by the fall in oil prices, its recent announcement of selling shares of its flagship oil company, Aramco, is expected to generate about $ 2 trillion. A Saudi official told the The Sunday Express that the countries were expected to sign a framework agreement for investment promotion during the visit.

New Delhi is clear that it would not get drawn into the geopolitics of the region and the Saudi-Iran turf war, even though there is likely to be intense pressure on the PM’s delegation. “We will convey our sensitivities on the issue and not take sides. We will stress on rule of law and no violence, as well as restraint,” a top government source told The Sunday Express.

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