Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in India as part of an Asia tour aimed at boosting his country’s image (PRAKASH SINGH)
New Delhi (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian leader Narendra Modi vowed Wednesday to increase pressure on countries that fuel terrorism.
The promise came as fallout from a suicide bomb attack that India has blamed on Pakistan overshadowed the latest leg of the crown prince’s tour aiming to boost his country’s image.
Modi did not mention Pakistan — a key Saudi ally — as he again blasted the “barbaric attack” in Kashmir last week that left at least 40 paramilitaries dead.
“To tackle this menace effectively, we agreed that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting terrorism in any way,” Modi said after talks with the crown prince.
“It is extremely important to eliminate the terror infrastructure and stop support to terrorists and their supporters.”
Prince Mohammed, who arrived in Delhi from Pakistan where he had offered to help the neighbours ease tensions, responded that “terrorism and extremism is a common concern for India and Saudi Arabia”.
The prince, whose country accuses Iran of backing militant strikes, added: “I want to state that we are ready to cooperate with India in every way, including through intelligence sharing.”
He said India and all “neighbouring countries must work together”.
The crown prince, on his first major tour since the storm erupted over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, also signed joint accords on industry and culture, but announced no major deals.
– Energy and investment –
In Pakistan, the Saudi prince announced $20 billion of investment for the Muslim country.
Modi has faced increasing pressure to take action over the Kashmir attack claimed by Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Islamabad, which banned JeM in 2002, has denied any role.
The Saudi delegation had wanted the Delhi leg of the crown prince tour to be devoted to bolstering its oil supplies to India.
Saudi Arabia is one of India’s key crude suppliers, along with Iran and Iraq.
Since taking office in 2014, Modi has also sought to attract Saudi investment in trade, infrastructure and defence. Two-way trade was worth $27.5 billion last year.
After his meeting with the Indian premier, Salman said the kingdom saw investment opportunities “in various fields (in India) to exceed $100 billion”.
Prime Minister Modi “welcomed the announcement of (the) crown prince to invest $100 billion in India in a range of areas like energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.,” T.S. Thirumurthy, secretary for economic relations at the Indian foreign ministry, told journalists in New Delhi.
“This is a clear reflection of the confidence of Saudi Arabia in the vibrancy of the Indian economy and tremendous opportunities available in India for investment.”
Thirumurthy said no time frame had been identified for these investments.
“Economic power is shifting from West to East and India will be (the) second-largest economy ahead of the United States, which is a big opportunity for us,” Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, told a Delhi investment conference on Wednesday.
Aramco signed an accord in April last year with Indian investors on a $44-billion petrochemical project in western India. Nasser, a member of the crown prince’s delegation, said his firm was in talks with other Indian firms as well.
“We are not limited to that investment (refinery), which is the mega refinery… we are looking at other opportunities,” Nasser added, according to the Press Trust of India.
The crown prince, who was greeted with a traditional Modi bear hug at the airport on Tuesday, said Saudi Arabia has invested nearly $44 billion dollars in India since the Indian leader’s visit to the kingdom in 2016.
Prince Mohammed was expected to go on to China later Wednesday.
India’s opposition Congress party meanwhile criticised Modi for welcoming the crown prince “with such abundance – only hours after he promised billions to Pakistan” while Indians were in grief over the Kashmir attack.
“PM Modi has shown the country, the martyrs and every soldier in India what he thinks of their service and sacrifice,” the party said on Twitter.
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