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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) receives Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman upon is arrival in India.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) receives Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman upon is arrival in India. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 February 2019

India PM Narendra Modi personally welcomes controversial Saudi Arabia Crown Prince at the airport with open arms.

Prime minister (PM) of India Narendra Modi personally welcomed Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman Tuesday at the airport, deviating from the typical protocol of sending an official or junior government minister.

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Bin Salman's visit takes place shortly after visiting Pakistan, which is currently at odds with India over a suicide bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary officers. The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), but India has accused Pakistan of being complicit.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has threatened to retaliate in the case that India attacks in response to the bombing, further raising tensions between the countries.

Despite the tension and Saudi Arabia's recent signing of investment agreements with Pakistan, worth US$20 billion, PM Modi tweeted that India is "delighted to welcome" the Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia has expressed an aim to de-escalate the strained relations between India and Pakistan, so it is expected that the conversation between the two leaders will primarily focus on "cross-border terrorism." 

Other topics of discussion will include building a Strategic Partnership Council between the two countries at the ministerial level, expanding ties beyond energy. Saudi Arabia is India's main supplier of crude oil, but both nations aim to deepen the partnership into other areas, such as security, trade, investment and culture. 

Following the trip, Bin Salman will continue through Asia, stopping in China, Malaysia and Indonesia. This marks the Crown Prince's first tour since faced with international criticism after the murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Despite the incident, and the Kingdom's leadership facing scrutiny over the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen, Bin Salman is among seven other leaders Modi personally received at the airport, including Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron and former U.S. President Barack Obama. 

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