Saudi prince foresees 'good things' with India on visit overshadowed by Kashmir

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NEW DELHI (Feb 20): India rolled out the red carpet for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday at a time when it is trying to build diplomatic support against Pakistan following a militant attack in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The crown prince this week was given a lavish welcome in Pakistan where the two sides signed memoranda of understanding valued at about $20 billion to help prop up Pakistan’s economy.

But the Kashmir attack threatens to overshadow the India trip as New Delhi seeks to drum up support against Pakistan. India will forcefully raise the issue of cross-border terrorism during the talks with the Saudi delegation later in the day, officials said.

Pakistan says it only gives diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

The crown prince hailed the relationship with India, a top consumer of Saudi crude oil, after a ceremonial welcome at the imposing red sandstone presidential palace.

“Today we want to be sure that this relation is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries. With the leadership of the president and the PM, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India,” he said in brief remarks before heading into talks with Indian leaders.

The prince is also expected to visit China during a tour that will be his first through the region since the storm over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

While the killing of Khashoggi, a known critic of the crown prince, has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered the prince’s image abroad, both India and Pakistan had expected a scaling up of investments during his trip.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who broke with government protocol to welcome the crown prince at the airport on Tuesday, has vowed a strong response to the bombing of a security convoy in Kashmir in which 40 paramilitary police were killed in an attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group.

Pakistan has said it would retaliate if attacked.