In a special gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday received Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the airport, signifying the importance India attaches to the visit by the leader of the powerful Gulf nation.
This is the ninth time Modi has gone to the airport to receive a foreign leader. The previous leaders include Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Japan PM Shinzo Abe, UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan (twice), Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, US President Barack Obama, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a tweet, Modi said India is “delighted to welcome” the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
After Salman’s arrival, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “A new chapter in bilateral relations. Breaking protocol, PM @narendramodi personally recieves HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as he arrives on his first bilateral visit to India!”
The visit comes a day after Riyadh signed a joint statement with Islamabad, where they said there was a need to avoid “politicisation of the UN listing regime” — an apparent reference to India’s efforts to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”.
Sources said that “cross-border terrorism” is expected to dominate the conversation between the two leaders.
During the bilateral talks, New Delhi and Riyadh are set to deepen their partnership in security, trade, investment, and culture by setting up a “Strategic Partnership Council” between the two countries at the ministerial level.
The two sides are also expected to sign five pacts in areas of investment, tourism, housing and information & broadcasting. Both sides are also exploring the possibility of elevating the defence engagement with joint production and joint exercises, particularly naval. In a recent meeting between a NITI Aayog-led delegation and their Saudi counterpart, ICT, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, electronic and manufacturing facilities, housing, etc. were identified as potential areas of enhanced cooperation. “We are also looking forward to greater collaboration in the area of civil aviation, where there is considerable potential for enhanced links,” MEA’s Secretary (economic relations) T S Tirumurti said.