By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to begin his official visit to the Kingdom on April 2. The announcement of premier’s planned visit to the Kingdom made headlines in Indian media on Sunday.
Modi, 66, is the first prime minister belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to visit the Kingdom.
“The details of the prime minister’s itinerary are being worked out…. and hence I can’t share the details of his visit at this stage,” said an Indian official via phone from New Delhi.
He, however, confirmed that the visit to Riyadh is part of the three-nation tour, that will begin on March 30.
The Riyadh-based Indian embassy refused to share information about the Modi’s visit, saying that the mission will disclose details once they will be officially intimated.
It is widely believed that Modi’s trip to the Kingdom will mainly focus on commercial ties, trade, and security issues that hampering peace and security in the Middle East and the regions in its neighborhood.
According to ‘Indian Express’, an Indian daily newspaper, “the Indian premier will travel to Saudi Arabia as part of his three-nation trip from March 30 during which he will also visit Washington to attend Nuclear Security Summit.”
Starting his visit with Belgium on March 30 for India-EU Summit, Modi will travel to Washington on March 31 before his two-day bilateral visit from April 2 to Saudi Arabia.
The Indian premier’s visit comes nearly six years after last prime ministerial visit to Riyadh, and it assumes significance given the current turmoil in the Middle East.
Apart from being India’s largest supplier of crude oil, accounting for almost one fifth of its need, the Kingdom is also India’s fourth largest trading partner.
Saudi Arabia has the largest Indian diaspora, whose number currently exceeds 2.8 million.
On regional level also, India is also engaged with countries in the Middle East.
To this end, it is important to note that a free trade agreement between GCC and India have been planned.
This agreement, once endorsed, will largely expand economic and investment links between the two regions, mainly the Kingdom and the UAE as New Delhi’s largest Gulf trading partners.
On the other hand, Arab League and India are working closely on a range of subjects.
They have vowed to combat terrorism and called for developing a strategy to “eliminate” its sources and its funding as India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a strong pitch for delinking religion from terrorism, while she was in Cairo and Bahrain recently.