Saudi crown prince expected to visit Delhi next month

Saudi crown prince expected to visit Delhi next month

Mohammed bin Salman’s visit comes just ahead of G-20 summit in Bali

Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) is likely to visit India on his way to Indonesia in mid-November, to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit is expected to last a few hours on November 14, and both leaders are expected to depart for Bali to attend the G-20 summit there on November 15-16.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who visited Riyadh in September for bilateral talks, had conveyed Mr. Modi’s invitation to Mr. Salman, asking him to visit at an “early date”. Sources say the visit of the Saudi leader could cast doubt over Mr. Modi’s attendance at meetings with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the 18-member East Asian Summit (EAS) leaders meeting in Cambodia around the same time.

During their meeting, PM Salman and PM Modi are expected to exchange views on the present energy security scenario due to the Russian war in Ukraine, and the western coalition sanctions that neither India nor the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has joined. The visit has geopolitical significance given U.S.-Saudi tensions over oil production cuts by the OPEC+ grouping that includes Russia, after which U.S. President Joseph Biden, who will also be in Bali, had warned of “consequences” for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In Delhi, the two leaders will review bilateral projects including the progress on Mr. Salman’s 2019 promise of “$100 billion investment” in India, particularly in oil reserves, and green energy projects, which hasn’t yet fructified. Mr. Modi has visited Riyadh twice, in 2016 and 2019, and announced a number of MoUs and projects as well, which will be reviewed, said officials. 

Saudi Arabia hosted the G-20 in 2020, and discussions will focus on the agenda for the G-20 in India next year, with a summit in Delhi in September 2023.

Diplomatic sources said the high-profile visit might mean Mr. Modi may not be able to attend the ASEAN-India summit as well as the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh from November 10-13. This is an important year for the ASEAN-India partnership as it marks the 30th year of ties between India and the Southeast Asian nations grouping, and a special “commemorative summit” is being planned.

In addition, India and the 10-nation ASEAN grouping have been in talks about upgrading their relationship to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” (CSP), and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had hosted the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers meeting (FMM) in Delhi this year and travelled to Cambodia for the East Asia FMM in August where this was discussed.

While Australia and China were named CSPs in 2021, the ties of the U.S. and India with ASEAN are likely to be upgraded this year. The East Asia Summit will include leaders from ASEAN countries and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the U.S.

“It is an important year, and we hope Mr. Modi will make the time for the summit in Cambodia, especially if we announce the elevation of the Strategic Partnership,” an ASEAN diplomat said. However, sources say the Ministry of External Affairs has indicated this may not be possible, given the crowded diplomatic and electoral calendar, and Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar would attend the summit in case the Prime Minister does not. Officials said that a final decision has not been taken on the attendance yet.

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