Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in remarks to reporters in India on Wednesday, described terrorism and extremism as a common threat and offered intelligence sharing and other cooperation with India in combating the menace.
While briefing reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the crown prince, commonly known as MBS, said he “shared India’s concern on terrorism,” without explicitly mentioning Pakistan, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The Press Trust of India (PTI) quotes the crown prince as telling reporters:
As far as terrorism and extremism are concerned — which are common concerns — I want to tell India that we will extend all cooperation to you — be it intelligence sharing … not only with India but also with the neighboring countries. We will work together so that we can ensure a bright future for the generations to come.
During the same press briefing, PM Modi declared, “Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counter-terrorism and tackling cyber crimes,” according to AP.
The leaders’ comments came amid inflamed tensions between regional nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan over a deadly attack by Islamabad-linked terrorists in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir last week.
MBS came to India a day after he visited the Saudi kingdom’s close ally Pakistan. India has blamed Pakistan for the attack in Kashmir and threatened retaliatory action. Islamabad, which has vowed to respond to any attack, denies involvement in the attack, claimed by the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
China, its ally Pakistan, and their rival India all have competing claims to the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir in the Himalayas. Beijing tends to stay in the shadows of the dispute, backing the interests of Pakistan. A border known as the Line of Control (LOC) divides Kashmiri territory held by India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars over the disputed region.
The Saudi crown prince and Indian leadership were expected to broach the subject of “cross-border terrorism” on Wednesday, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports.
In Islamabad early this week, Adel al-Jubeir, the Sunni kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Saudi Arabia would try to “de-escalate” tensions between Indian and Pakistan over the recent Kashmir attack.
Citing a joint statement issued by Pakistan and India, PTI reports that the crown prince stressed that dialogue is the only way to achieve peace between Islamabad and New Delhi.
In remarks to the media after meeting MBS, PM Modi referred to the recent attack in Kashmir as “cruel symbol” of the scourge of terrorism. The crown prince, however, did not mention the deadly incident, which left more than 40 Indian security forces dead.
“Last week’s barbaric Pulwama attack was a symbol of the shadow of the inhuman danger hovering over the world. To deal with the scourge, we have agreed that there was a need to ramp up pressure on countries extending any sort of support to terrorism,” the Indian PM declared, without explicitly naming Pakistan.
He called for the punishment of the terrorists and their supporters.
“It is the need of the hour to take appropriate action against the infrastructure of terrorism. It is very important to punish the terrorists and all their supporters,” Modi proclaimed.
On Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to take action against any perpetrators of the Kashmir attack in Pulwama if New Delhi shares any actionable evidence linking Islamabad to the assault. India claims to have “incontrovertible evidence” of Pakistan’s involvement, an accusation rejected by Islamabad.
The Indian PM also called for action against regional terrorism, noting that Saudi Arabia and India agreed that stronger bilateral cooperation against terrorism would benefit both countries.
India and Saudi Arabia “inked five pacts in areas of investment, tourism, housing and information, and broadcasting during delegation-level talks,” the Indian Express reports.
“MBS said that he saw [the] potential for $100 billion investment in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services in India, and said the two countries would evolve a strategy for mutual gains,” Dawn adds.
Last year, trade between India and Saudi Arabia reached $27.5 billion.
The Indian Express notes:
Ties between India and Saudi Arabia, where millions of Indians are employed as migrant workers, have strengthened since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing.
MBS revealed that Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.
New Delhi reportedly considers Saudi Arabia, the source of 17 percent of India’s crude oil and about a third of its liquefied natural gas, a ‘key pillar’ of India’s energy security.