MbS makes passage to India amid Pakistan tensions

MbS makes passage to India amid Pakistan tensions
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday as part a five-country tour through Asia. The leaders tackled terrorism and trade.
3 min read
20 February, 2019
MbS said India could potentially expect $100 billion in Saudi investment [Anadolu]

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in India meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote closer ties and potential multi-billion dollar investments, part of Saudi Arabia's so-called Asian pivot as it finds itself under increasing pressure in the West over its human rights record.

Modi and the crown prince, who has come to be known by his initials MbS, met on Wednesday and vowed to increase pressure on countries fuelling terrorism, following a
deadly suicide attack in Kashmir last week.

"Terrorism and extremism is a common concern for India and Saudi Arabia," MbS said.

"We are ready to cooperate with India, including through intelligence sharing.”

The crown prince arrived in India on Tuesday evening via Riyadh following a two-day visit to Pakistan this week, as India prevented MbS from flying directly from its rival. The visit is part of a five-country tour through Asia.

Modi used the opportunity of MbS’s visit to step up warnings following last week's suicide attack in Kashmir which killed 40 Indian soldiers.

"To tackle this menace effectively, we agreed that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting terrorism in any way," said the prime minister.

While neither leader offered spoke directly about which countries they considered to be supporting terrorism, it is likely Modi and MbS were referring to their regional rivals, respectively Pakistan and Iran.

While in Pakistan, Saudi officials offered to help "de-escalate tensions" between India and Pakistan.

MbS also spoke about strengthening ties with India outside of the counter-terrorism sphere, and pointed to Saudi Arabia's historic relationship with the country, which he said was "in our DNA".

"We know Indian people as friends, and they are part of building Saudi Arabia in the past 70 years," said the crown prince.

Indians have been travelling to and settling in Saudi Arabia for centuries, and are currently the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.

However, the lives of many foreign workers in the kingdom are governed by the Kafala sponsorship system, which human rights organisations have heavily criticised for violating human rights.

The crown prince predicted his trip would bring "good things" for both countries.

"There are opportunities to invest over $100 billion in India," the crown prince said, according to The Hindustan Times. He added that Saudi Arabia had already invested $44 billion in the country in a refinery deal with Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia is a key source of crude oil for India. This lucrative relationship is expected to become more important as a deadline looms for India to cooperate with US sanctions on Iran, another of the country’s major oil providers.

MbS promised $20 billion in investment to Pakistan during his trip to the country, but no major deals have been announced with India yet.

Talk of building stronger ties with Pakistan, India and other Asian countries MbS will visit in this month’s five-country tour is MbS's way of showing the US that Saudi Arabia does not need its support in the wake of the Khashoggi killing, analysts say.

"The Crown Prince's visit to Pakistan, India, and China is more about showing the US and European states that he has other options and that while he may not be welcome in their capitals that is not the case elsewhere," analyst and academic Kristian Ulrichsen told The New Arab.

"MbS knows that economically the East is going to be more important than the West in the long-run particularly as they do not apply a human rights conditionality to their engagement with Saudi Arabia," said analyst Dr Andreas Krieg.