PM Modi to arrive in Saudi Arabia today, all eyes on his meeting with deputy crown prince MBS
Washington/New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left for Saudi Arabia after two days of engagement with world leaders during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
"My Washington DC visit was full of fruitful meetings and interactions. We have discussed an issue of great global importance," Modi said in a tweet before Air India One left Andrews Airforce Base for Saudi Arabia yesterday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive at Riyadh airport this evening on a two-day visit with an aim to reinvigorate India's strategic partnership with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, particularly in areas of counter-terrorism, energy and trade.
Modi will be the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Manmohan Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.
The Prime Minister will hold extensive talks with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on a range of bilateral issues including on ways to step up existing counter-terrorism mechanism to deal with increasing threat of terrorism and radicalisation.
His visit to Saudi Arabia is part of a broader diplomatic offensive to put pressure on arch rival Pakistan by forging ties with some of Islamabad's closest allies. The Prime Minister is expected to sign trade agreements, including contracts to secure investment for infrastructure projects, and offer security and military cooperation, such as training and joint exercises.
Tentative plan for day 1 of PM Modi’s Saudi visit:
1330 (4:00pm IST)-Arrive at Royal Terminal, Riyadh Airport
1345 (4:15pm IST)-Depart for King Saud Guest Palace
1415 (4:45pm IST)-Arrive at Al Saud Palace
1630-1650 (7:00pm to 7:20pm IST)-Visit to Masmak Fortress(Al Imam Turki bin Abdullah IBN Mohammad Street, Al Diriyah, Riyadh)
1705-1735 (7:35pm to 8:05pm IST)-Interaction with community(Hotel Intercontinental)
1800-1900 (8:30pm to 9:30pm IST)-Visit to L&T Workers Residential Complex
1900 (9:30pm IST)-Depart for Al Saud Palace
Also, all eyes will be on his meetings with Al Saud’s son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who many diplomats and Saudis feel could be the future King. The will stay at the royal family’s guest palace. Prince Mohammad bin Salman, referred as MBS, is not just the deputy Crown Prince, but also the Defence Minister and the Chief Economic Planner of the Saudi Kingdom.
The visit comes just months after he travelled to another major Pakistan ally, the United Arab Emirates, and signed a security cooperation agreement that includes regular meetings between top security advisers.
Saudi Arabia is India's largest crude oil supplier meeting one-fifth of the country's oil requirement and Modi may press for greater involvement of Indian companies in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in the Gulf nation which has a huge reservoir of hydrocarbons. Its economy has been hit by low oil prices.
Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade exceeding $39 billion in 2014-15.
Modi will also meet top CEOs of major Saudi companies, visit the famous Masmak fort, will interact with the Indian community and visit Tata Consultancy centre which had trained over 1,000 Saudi women.
Modi will also meet Indian workers of a project being implemented by L&T in Dahiat Namar in Riyadh.
After talks on Sunday, both sides will sign a number of MOUs to expand ties in a range of areas. The King will also host a lunch for Modi which will be attended by key ministers and officials.
Signalling growing cooperation in the fight against terror, Saudi Arabia has deported a number of terrorists to India in the last few years including 26/11 accused Abu Jundal.
There is an existing counter-terror mechanism between India and Saudi Arabia and both sides are likely to enhance it further.
There are over 2.96 million Indian nationals working in Saudi Arabia, the largest expatriate community in the country, and Modi is expected to raise issues concerning them during his deliberations with the Saudi leadership.