Saudi Arabian crown prince receives ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan, says 'want to be sure this relation is improved'

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi on Wednesday, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. Modi and Crown Prince Salman will now hold bilateral talks on a number of subjects.

"Today, we want to be sure that this relation is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries. With the leadership of the president and prime minster, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India," he said.

MBS arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday night with his ministers and a large business delegation at the end of his two-day visit to Pakistan. Modi broke protocol to receive the crown prince himself instead of sending a diplomat or junior minister to the airport, signifying importance India attaches to the visit by the leader of the powerful Gulf nation.

The crown prince had flown back to Riyadh from Islamabad after New Delhi had expressed reservations about him travelling to India from Pakistan, in the wake of the heightened tensions between the neighbours after the terror attack in Pulwama. A suicide bomber of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) drove an explosives-laden truck into a CRPF convoy on Thursday, killing 42 troops and critically injuring several.

MBS' day-long visit will be closely watched as Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, endorsed Pakistan's "achievements" in "combating terrorism", the very concern India plans to raise at the meeting between the crown prince and Modi in the backdrop of the Gulf nation infusing Islamabad's coffers with financial aid. Saudi Arabia, during MBS's two-day trip to Islamabad, had vowed to "de-escalate" the rising India-Pakistan tensions.

During their talks on Wednesday, Modi and Salman are also expected to look at ways to enhance defence ties, including having a joint naval exercise. They will also focus their talks on terrorism and trade.

In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade and investment, infrastructure, defence and security.

The bilateral trade was $27.48 billion during the 2017-18 financial year, making Saudi Arabia India's fourth largest trading partner.

Saudi Arabia also contributes significantly to India's energy security needs by supplying about 20 percent of crude requirements of the country.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2019 10:46:15 IST

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