Ahead of India's visit, Saudi prince to sign deals worth $ 12 billion in Pakistan

The first state visit by Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman to India on 19-20 comes with a promise of new investment, but despite growing bilateral ties, India remains “hyphenated” with Pakistan. Announcing the visit, MEA spokesperson said the crown prince will be accompanied by a large business and senior ministerial delegation.” The crown prince is expected to hold discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will call on the President Ram Nath Kovind. India’s ties with Saudi Arabia have undergone a sea change since former King Abdullah visited here as chief guest at Republic Day celebrations in 2006. After Iran went under US sanctions in 2011 and in 2018, Saudi Arabia has increased its supply of crude to India, supplying 20 per cent of India’s crude oil demand.

The spokesperson said, “in recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade & investment, infrastructure, defense, and security.” After Modi visited Riyadh, defense, counter-terrorism and security went up in the list of important shared issues. India has, however, refused to curtail its ties with either Iran or Qatar, two countries are currently sworn enemies of Saudi Arabia.

The MEA spokesperson said, “Recently, Saudi ARAMCO in partnership with ADNOC of UAE has entered into a Joint Venture for US$ 44 billion worth Ratnagiri Refinery and Petro-Chemical project Ltd.” However, growing local opposition has led the Maharashtra government to stall land acquisition for the project, and its unlikely to pick up until after the general elections. “The entire (land acquisition) process has been stayed. We haven’t acquired any land,” Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told the Maharashtra assembly in November.

Salman, who has been the subject of international opprobrium for ordering a hit on journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will be making his first trip to Pakistan next week before visiting India. Media reports from Pakistan quote Imran Khan’s economic adviser, Abdul Razaq Dawood as saying that Salman would sign about $12 billion in deals in Pakistan, intended to shore up their flagging economy. Pakistan hopes to attract Saudi investment in an oil refinery in Gwadar port, which is being built by China and could include Chinese naval assets as well. According to reports, Pakistan has indicated it could extend a 20-year tax holiday for the refinery investment.