Saudi crown prince backs India’s fight against terrorism
NEW DELHI — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday offered intelligence sharing and other cooperation with India in fighting extremism and terrorism, as New Delhi tackled rising tensions with Pakistan following a suicide bombing last week on Indian paramilitary soldiers in disputed Kashmir.
The crown prince, with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his side, told reporters that he “shared India’s concern on terrorism.” He did not make any reference to Pakistan, but said his visit to India will improve centuries-old ties between the countries, which he said are “in our DNA.”
Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish Pakistan for the suicide attack. India placed the blame for the bombing squarely on Pakistan, which it accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.
Modi in his remarks at the media briefing referred to the attack on Indian soldiers and said that effective steps would be taken to punish the perpetrators and their supporters. He didn’t elaborate.
“Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counterterrorism and tackling cybercrimes,” he said.
Modi also called for a strong action plan for combating extremism so that the powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth.
The two sides signed agreements for promoting investment, infrastructure, tourism, housing and communications. Their two-way trade totaled $27.5 billion last year.
The Saudi side also signed the framework agreement on the International Solar Alliance, a treaty-based international body for the promotion of efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry. It was launched by India and France on the sidelines of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.
The agreement aims at creating credit mechanisms, crowd funding and sharing of technological breakthroughs to promote solar energy in 121 countries associated with the treaty.
Prince Mohammed said he saw a potential for $100 billion investment in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services and said the two countries would evolve a strategy for mutual gains. He said that Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.
He also noted that “since we remember ourselves, we know Indian people as friends, and they are part of building Saudi Arabia in the past 70 years.” These relations would improve for the sake of both countries, he told reporters.
His trip to India comes five months after he came under intense pressure following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. In keeping with a long-standing policy of not commenting on countries’ internal affairs, India declined to take a position on the Washington Post columnist’s killing by suspected Saudi agents at the consulate.
The crown prince arrived in India on Tuesday night after visiting cash-strapped Islamabad, which voiced support for him amid the international outcry over Khashoggi’s killing. The Saudi delegation signed $20 billion in investment deals and vowed to free thousands of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi custody.
India describes Saudi Arabia as a “key pillar” of its energy security. It provides about 17 percent of India’s crude oil and about a third of its liquefied natural gas.
The relationship is likely to become more significant as a deadline nears for India to comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran, one of India’s main oil providers.
Ties between India and Saudi Arabia, where millions of Indians are employed as migrant workers, have strengthened since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 for the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing.
Prince Mohammed will leave New Delhi later Wednesday, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry.
He will pay a two-day visit to China beginning Thursday. /ee
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