In a marked departure from the one they issued in February this year, the joint statement by New Delhi and Riyadh Tuesday made no mention on the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.
In the joint statement issued Tuesday after the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the two sides reiterated their “categorical rejection of all forms of interference in the internal affairs of countries”, and the need for the international community to fulfil its responsibilities towards “preventing any attacks on the sovereignty of States”.
While New Delhi views this as an oblique reference to Pakistan meddling in Kashmir, Saudis interpret this as Iran’s interference in their affairs.
The February joint statement, issued after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India, had a full paragraph on India-Pakistan relations: “The two sides stressed the importance of regional stability and good neighbouring relations. 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. In this context, both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan.”
Tuesday’s joint statement was silent on India-Pakistan ties or a dialogue. And unlike February, when the joint statement 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”, there was no reference to the Pulwama attack.
The joint statement said the “Indian side condemned the terrorist acts against civilian installations in the Kingdom”. This was a reference to the drone attacks on Saudi oil fields. The joint statement said both sides expressed their rejection of all terrorist acts and stressed the need to “prevent access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries”.
The February statement too called upon “all States to deny access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries”.
This time, on terrorism, it said the two sides stressed that “the extremism and terrorism threaten all nations and societies. They rejected any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture.”
In a new formulation, both sides called for “closer cooperation in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center”, and also agreed on strengthening cooperation in combating terrorist operations, exchange of information, capacity building and strengthening of cooperation in combating transnational crimes, within the framework of the existing bilateral security cooperation.
The February statement on terrorism was stronger and more robust. At that time, both sides called upon “all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of State policy”. New Delhi had underlined this as a reference to Pakistan’s military establishment. This time, that line is missing from the joint statement.