Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday arrived at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh for a two-day visit to the country.
The Prime Minister was received by Saudi officials. He inspected a guard of honour at the airport and will be staying at the King Saud Palace during the visit.
Modi is in the Kingdom at the invitation of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and with an aim to boost bilateral ties between the two countries in key sectors, including energy and finance.
The visit would witness the Prime Minister launching the RuPay card in the country, besides meeting several ministers from the Saudi leadership on Tuesday.
Modi is also expected to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Labour and Social Development Minister Ahmad bin Sulaiman Alrajhi and Environment and Agriculture Minister Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al Fadley on Tuesday.
A lunch will be hosted by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in honour of the Prime Minister at the Royal Court.
Modi is slated to hold a bilateral meeting with the King following which an exchange of agreements will take place.
The Prime Minister will deliver a keynote address at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) which will be followed by an interaction with a moderator at the conference. The FII Forum is also known as the ‘Davos in the Desert’ which has been hosted by Riyadh since 2017 to project the Kingdom as a potential investment hub in the region.
After delivering the address, Modi will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A dinner will be hosted by the Crown Prince in honour of the Indian leader.
Modi will then depart for New Delhi in the night after wrapping up his engagements.
Prior to his departure, Modi said in a statement that he looks forward to his participation in the FII Forum where he would be speaking about the growing trade and investment opportunities for the global investors in India as the country marches forward to a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024.
In his statement, the Prime Minister noted that India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed traditionally close and friendly relations and that the latter has been one of the largest and reliable suppliers of India’s energy needs.
Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has unilaterally downgraded bilateral ties and has been attempting to internationalise the Kashmir issue but to no avail.
The Prime Minister’s aircraft had to take a long detour by crossing the Arabian Sea, as Pakistan had denied permission to allow the plane to use its airspace while flying to Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan on Sunday turned down a request from India for the use of its airspace for Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, India had sought Pakistan’s permission for the same.
Sources in the government have said that New Delhi has taken the matter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). According to the sources, overflight clearances are sought and granted by other countries as prescribed by the ICAO guidelines.
“Overflight clearances are sought and granted by other countries as per the prescribed guidelines of the ICAO. India will continue to seek such overflight clearances. We have taken up the matter of such denial with the civil aviation body,” said the sources.
“Pakistan should reflect upon its decision to deviate from well-established international practice, as well as reconsider its old habit of misrepresenting the reasons for taking unilateral action,” added the sources.
“We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to yet again deny the overflight clearance for VVIP special flight, which is otherwise granted routinely by any normal country,” they said.
Pakistan had earlier also denied Modi access to its air space for his visit to the US to attend the 74th UN General Assembly session in September. Prior to this, President Ram Nath Kovind was also denied permission to use Pakistan’s airspace for his official visit to Europe.