Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived today on a two-day visit to energy-powerhouse Saudi Arabia during which both countries are set to sign a raft of pacts to bolster their strategic partnership besides exploring ways to deepen security and counter-terror cooperation.
Modi was given a warm welcome at the ‘Royal Terminal’ of the Khalid International Airport with Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, a key member of the Royal family, receiving him along with a number of high- ranking Saudi officials.
From the airport, located 35 kilometres north of Riyadh, the Prime Minister drove straight to the majestic and highly fortified King Saud Guest Palace in the heart of the city where Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud is hosting the Indian leader and his delegation. The entire complex has been elaborately decorated.
“Reached Saudi Arabia. I look forward to a productive visit that will strengthen our bilateral relations,” the Prime Minister tweeted in Arabic as well as in English just after his arrival.
In the last seven months, it is Modi’s second visit to the Gulf, a strategically important region which is home to over 8 million Indians and key to India’s energy security.
Combating threat of terrorism and radicalisation are expected to figure high on the agenda of talks between Modi and the leadership of Saudi Arabia, a country known as the spiritual home of Islam, which recently formed a major coalition of 34 Muslim nations to fight terror, particularly the ISIS.
The visit is expected to put bilateral ties on a new trajectory. India’s ties with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s leading oil producers, have been on an upswing over the last two decades based on burgeoning energy ties and both countries may look to move beyond the buyer-seller relationship in the sector and go for joint ventures and investment in refineries and oil fields.
In this context, Modi may seek deeper involvement of Indian companies in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in the Gulf nation whose economy has been hit due to falling crude prices, cut in oil exports and slowing down of domestic consumption.
The Prime Minister will hold extensive talks with King Salman on a range of bilateral issues tomorrow following which both sides will sign a number of MoUs.
Separately, he will also meet Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
The Prime Minister arrived here from Washington on the final leg of his three-nation tour that began on March 30 with a visit to Brussels
(With inputs from PTI)