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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in New Delhi for a 2-day visit on Tuesday evening. He was warmly received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the airport with a hug. The visit will be closely-watched for talks between the two leaders on terrorism and trade. Amid India’s efforts to diplomatically isolate Pakistan as punishment for Pulwama terror attack, the Crown Prince had praised Islamabad’s “efforts for regional peace and security” and announced investments worth 20 billion dollars at the end of his visit to the country yesterday.

After his 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 Saudi leader had returned to Riyadh from Pakistan”.

Earlier in Pakistan a formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane of the Crown Prince after its entry into the Pakistani airspace. On arrival, the Crown Prince was given a 21-gun salute.The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been decked out in images of the Saudi royal family and banners welcoming the Crown Prince.The Crown Prince’s trip was treated by Islamabad as the biggest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015.Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi handed the prestigious Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan) award on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday.On receiving the award at President House in Islamabad, Prince Mohammed said he was “honored” to meet the president and receive the highest medal of the Republic.”

India is likely to strongly raise the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even as the two countries will look at further enhancing defence ties, including having a joint naval exercise, during his two-day visit.Saudi Arabia has vowed to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during the high-profile summit in Islamabad. The joint statement said during the talks, the Crown Prince and the Deputy Prime Minister also stressed that “dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues”.

Apart from defence and counter-terrorism, other issues likely to come up for discussions during Prince Salman’s visit include investments, food security, infrastructure and renewable energy. Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner and the bilateral trade is worth close to $28 billion. Saudi Arabia is also a key pillar of India’s energy security, being a source of 17% or more of crude oil and 32% of India’s LPG requirements.India is reportedly also looking forward to greater collaboration in the area of civil aviation, where there is considerable potential for enhanced links, especially in the context of increasing trade, tourism and in enhancing the convenience of travel.India and Saudi Arabia are also finalising the setting up of a ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ at ministerial level.

But the upcoming visit already has a cloud cast upon it in terms of India’s efforts to list JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”. The joint statement released by Riyadh and Islamabad on Monday underlined the need for avoiding “politicisation of the UN listing regime”, which is being seen as an apparent reference to India’s efforts. China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and a close ally of Pakistan, has consistently blocked this move.

Suhail Mohammed is pursuing his graduation in English literature at the Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University.

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