The world's eyes were on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as he made two important visits this week.
The first visit that Mohammad bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, made, was to Pakistan, a country that’s still facing flak after the terror attack in Pulwama which left 40 Indian CRPF jawans dead. The second visit he made was to India, where he was personally received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“It’s not entirely clear why India would extend such an effusive welcome to the Crown Prince when there’s little to no chance of Saudi Arabia ever choosing a relationship with India over a relationship with Pakistan. Why? Well, will India send soldiers to fight in Saudi wars, like Pakistan has? Would India ever give nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan is credibly expected to do if Iran goes nuclear? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then what’s the point of this enormous friendliness that’s being shown right after a terror attack?”Khemta Jose, Snr Foreign Affairs Correspondent, The Quint
On this edition of The Big Story podcast, we’re diving into Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s visits to India and Pakistan, the important developments that have taken place in the past week, and what it all means.
Big Announcements, Little Substance?
The most important development was of course about terrorism and Pakistan, but we’ll get to that in just a bit.
MBS also announced that 850 Indian prisoners who are currently lodged in Saudi jails, will be released, after a request from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Second, MBS also pledged an investment of USD 100 billion in India.
Interestingly enough, just two days before this, MBS had also announced the release of 2100 Pakistani prisoners… and that Saudi Arabia would invest $20 billion in Pakistan to ease Pakistan’s debt crisis.
Now on the topic of the Pulwama terror attack, and pay attention here because this bit is important – MBS assured India that Saudi Arabia would cooperate with India on all fronts, including sharing intelligence, because extremism and terrorism were common concerns for both countries.
Saudi Arabia’s MoS for Foreign Affairs also said that Riyadh would try to “de-escalate” tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.
Why is this so important? Because Saudi Arabia is one of Pakistan’s most important allies, and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group that claimed the Pulwama terror attack, has its home base in Pakistan.
India-Saudi Arabia’s Joint Statement Against Terror Mere Optics?
“I want to assure India, that as far as extremism and terrorism are concerned, we will co-operate in whatever way possible.”Mohammad Bin Salman, Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia
MBS’ remark on terrorism comes less than a week after the Pulwama attack and just two days after he congratulated Pak PM Imran Khan for his “openness” and efforts for dialogue with India. On the same stage, MBS also urged against politicising the listing of the Jaish-e-Mohammed on the UN security council’s blacklist.
So, this obviously led to Indian journalists and former diplomats slamming MBS’ visit to Pakistan saying that it undermines India’s stance against Pakistan using terror as a “state policy”.
Economist Rupa Subramanya called the move a confirmation of the fact that the Modi govt is quote, “about PR and not about substance”.