Modi’s Saudi visit part of push to ‘de-hyphenate’ India from Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday is part of a broader diplomatic offensive to put pressure on arch rival Pakistan. (AP)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday is part of a broader diplomatic offensive to put pressure on arch rival Pakistan by forging ties with some of Islamabad’s closest allies, Indian ruling party and government officials said.

Modi is expected to sign trade agreements, including contracts to secure investment for infrastructure projects, and offer security and military cooperation, such as training and joint exercises, they said.

The visit comes just months after he traveled to another Pakistan ally, the United Arab Emirates, and signed a security cooperation agreement that includes regular meetings between top security advisers.

“It’s simple. We have to do everything to deal with Pakistan - use economics, strategy and emotional ties to win the hearts of Islamabad’s friends,” said Ram Madhav, national general secretary of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of sponsoring a separatist movement and militancy in the Himalayan region. Pakistan denies the charge and accuses India of occupying Kashmir and fomenting trouble in its restive provinces, like Baluchistan.

Stronger relationships with Pakistan’s allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE can help India get a more sympathetic hearing on global and regional forums and put pressure on Islamabad to rein in militants.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia and the United States imposed joint sanctions targeting the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

Government officials described Modi’s diplomatic push as an effort to “de-hyphenate” India from Pakistan, especially as New Delhi tries to play a bigger geopolitical role in Asia to counter China’s influence.

Right timing

Until now, India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been driven primarily by trade and the Indian diaspora in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is India’s top energy supplier and home to more than 3.5 million Indian expatriates.

Over the past few years, there has been some cooperation on security between the two countries, with Riyadh deporting four most wanted fugitives to India.

Modi will look to broaden those ties, with one foreign ministry official saying healthcare, education, religious tourism and labor reforms would also be key talking points.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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