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Fresh from Islamabad Visit, Will Saudi Crown Prince MBS Call Out Pakistan on Terror?

The joint statement on terrorism this time around will have to be stronger than the one in 2016 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s father King Salman in Riyadh.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:February 20, 2019, 9:03 AM IST

New Delhi: As Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman landed in New Delhi on Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received him at the airport with a hug.

Before coming to India, the crown prince was in Islamabad at the start of his tour of South Asia. He then returned to Saudi Arabia on Monday as New Delhi reportedly had reservations over his coming to India from Pakistan.

A big question looms over the visit which happens in the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack last week: will Saudi Arabia go beyond denouncing the attack and call out Pakistan?

Jaish-e-Mohammad, the terror outfit led by Masood Azhar, has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Azhar continues to reside in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, having escaped sanctions under the 1267 committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Pakistan’s all-weather friend China has blocked repeated efforts by India, the US and some European countries to get Azhar designated a global terrorist.

The move would have helped choke funding to this terror outfit that continues to function from Pakistan despite being proscribed by the UNSC.

However, the joint statement issued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday underlined the need for avoiding politicisation of UN listing regime.

This came at a time when India and the US have decided to go back to the world body seeking a sanction on Azhar.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale met the Chinese envoy in India on Friday and apprised him of Pakistan’s complicity in the Pulwama terror attack. He also raised the issue of listing Azhar as global terrorist.

Sources said the 2016 joint statement between Saudi Arabia and India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the crown prince’s father King Salman in Riyadh was fairly strongly worded.

It “called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist and cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states and bring perpetrators of acts of terrorism to justice.”

Sources said the statement on terrorism this time around will have to be either this strong, which clearly hinted at Pakistan without naming it, or even stronger.

The position from the 2016 joint statement can’t be diluted though the final shape to the joint statement was still being worked out, the sources said, adding India and Saudi Arabia’s relations have undergone a radical change over the last few years — from security to defence cooperation.

Secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs, TS Tirumurthi, said, “The kingdom has shown greater understanding of our terrorism-related concerns and also agreed to work with India in countering this global menace.”

Sources said Saudi Arabia’s position on Kashmir has also evolved over the years. The kingdom doesn’t solely follow Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir any longer and consider it a bilateral issue to be resolved between the two.

During the crown prince's visit, the two countries are looking at signing five memorandums of agreement in areas of investment, tourism, housing and information and broadcasting.

India and Saudi Arabia are also finalising the setting up of a ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ at ministerial level.

Tirumurti said, “We are confident this will give greater thrust to our strategic partnership and take forward our discussions in a focused and action-oriented manner.”

With Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan making a televised statement on Tuesday afternoon saying the nation will retaliate to any move by India after the Pulwama attack, will the Saudi crown prince call upon Imran Khan to de-escalate and not heighten tensions in the region by acting against JeM?

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