Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Saudi Arabia during 29-31 October to participate in an annual investment forum to be held in the kingdom, as well as for talks with the Saudi leadership, two people familiar with the development said.
Modi’s visit comes eight months after Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a visit to India in February. The visit also comes at a time when India seeks to put across its narrative on the scrapping of Article 370 and withdrawal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
During his visit, Modi will meet King Salman and hold talks with the crown prince who is expected to host a lunch for the prime minister.
Before concluding his visit, Modi will address the Future Investment Initiative forum – regarded as the “Davos of the Desert”, an Indian official said. It is being organized by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and is seen as a high level forum to engage decision makers in Saudi Arabia and the region. The theme of the event is “What is Next for Global Business”.
Saudi Arabia is seen as wielding considerable influence in the Muslim world — the Saudi monarch being the custodian of two most renowned pilgrimages among Muslims. Riyadh is also seen as having considerable sway over opinion in Pakistan.
According to two people familiar with the developments, Saudi Arabia is seen having exerted a moderating influence on Pakistan at fora like the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva when Islamabad had tried to highlight alleged human rights violations in Kashmir — a reference to some curbs put in place by India to ensure law and order were maintained. As a consequence, there was no special session called to discuss the Kashmir issue.
One of the people cited above noted that Saudi Arabia had for some years now consciously adopted a strategy to engage India and was quietly advising Pakistan to keep away from seeking any special session on Kashmir seems to have been part of that.