Modi to arrive in Saudi Arabia tomorrow to boost strategic ties

RIYADH: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive here tomorrow on a two-day visit with an aim to reinvigorate India’s strategic partnership with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, particularly in areas of counter-terrorism, energy and trade.

Modi will be the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Manmohan Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.

The Prime Minister will hold extensive talks with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on a range of bilateral issues including on ways to step up existing counter-terrorism mechanism to deal with increasing threat of terrorism and radicalisation.

Modi’s visit here comes amid the current turmoil in the Middle East and the issue is likely to figure prominently in the deliberations he will have with the Saudi leadership.

Saudi Arabia is India’s largest crude oil supplier meeting one-fifth of the country’s oil requirement and Modi may press for greater involvement of Indian companies in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in the Gulf nation which has a huge reservoir of hydrocarbons. Its economy has been hit by low oil prices.

The Prime Minister will arrive here from Washington on the final leg of his three-nation tour that began on March 30 with a visit to Brussels.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade exceeding USD 39 billion in 2014-15.

There are over 2.96 million Indian nationals working in Saudi Arabia, the largest expatriate community in the country, and Modi is expected to raise issues concerning them during his deliberations with the Saudi leadership.

Modi will also meet top CEOs of major Saudi companies, visit the famous Masmak fort, will interact with the Indian community and visit Tata Consultancy centre which had trained over 1,000 Saudi women.

Modi will also meet Indian workers of a project being implemented by L&T in Dahiat Namar in Riyadh.

After talks on Sunday, both sides will sign a number of MOUs to expand ties in a range of areas. The King will also host a lunch for Modi which will be attended by key ministers and officials.

Signalling growing cooperation in the fight against terror, Saudi Arabia has deported a number of terrorists to India in the last few years including 26/11 accused Abu Jundal.

There is an existing counter-terror mechanism between India and Saudi Arabia and both sides are likely to enhance it further.