Photos: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed-bin Salman arrives in New Delhi

New Delhi: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed-bin Salman arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening and was warmly received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the airport.

Modi hugged the visiting Crown Prince with a hug as soon as he got off his plane.

The Prime Minister and MBS, as the Saudi Crown Prince is also known, will hold bilateral talks tomorrow, during which terrorism is expected to figure prominently, particularly in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack.

India is likely to raise the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the two countries are expected to sign ties to enhance cooperation in various fields during the “landmark event in high-level bilateral ties”.

Other issues likely to figure in the talks include defense and security. The two sides are expected to sign five MoUs in fields ranging from defense, healthcare etc.

According to the External Affairs Ministry, the talks on investment of US $44 billion by Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in Ratnagiri Refinery project are also likely to take place.

“Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visit to India will be a landmark event in the history of our high-level bilateral engagements and they will certainly take an upward strategic direction,” Arab News quoted Indian ambassador in Riyadh Ahmad Javed as saying.

The visit by MBS could be considered as important after the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed by Pakistan-backed JeM terrorist group, as India adopted coercive diplomacy against Pakistan.

In addition, there is a big transformation in Saudi understanding of terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir in the last few years. Saudi made a very strong denouncement of Pulwama terror attack and did not accept Pakistan’s narrative.

India and Saudi Arabia are also expected to hold joint Naval exercises in the near future in efforts to deepen the defense ties.

Recently, Saudi Arabia has ranked India as the 8th strategic partner. Bilateral trade between the countries stood at US$ 27.48 billion during the last financial year 2017-18.

India and Saudi Arabia have historically enjoyed close and friendly relations anchored in mutually beneficial partnership and extensive people to people contacts. In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade, and investment, infrastructure, defense, and security.

About 2.7 million strong and vibrant Indian community forms the largest expatriate group in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also facilitates Hajj pilgrimage to over 1,75,000 Indians every year.

The Saudi Crown Prince has embarked on a four-country Asian tour that besides India, also includes Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia. He recently concluded his Pakistan visit.