Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to make a brief visit to India in mid-November, and the focus of the trip is expected to be largely on the fallout of the Ukraine conflict, especially on energy security, and bilateral trade and investments.
There was no official confirmation from both countries regarding the visit, and people familiar with the matter said the crown prince, named the kingdom’s prime minister last month, is likely to travel to New Delhi on his way to the G20 Summit in Indonesia from November 15-16.
The visit, if went ahead, will last less than a day and Prince Mohammed is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the people said.
The impact of the Ukraine conflict on food and energy security is expected to figure in the discussions, especially since Saudi Arabia has traditionally been among the top three energy sources for India. The OPEC+ grouping, which includes Russia, recently announced it will cut oil production by two million barrels a day from November to shore up prices.
Saudi Arabia had a key role in the decision despite pressure from the United States to not cut crude output. India, which has for long argued against an ‘Asian premium’ charged by the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), has sought to diversify oil imports since OPEC+ announced the cut.
India and Saudi Arabia worked closely during the kingdom’s presidency of the G20 in 2020, and New Delhi will be looking to Riyadh’s support for its presidency of the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies in 2023, the people said.
Prince Mohammed had, in his last trip to India in February 2019, announced planned investments in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, mining and manufacturing potentially worth more than $100 billion. This planned visit will be an opportunity for the two sides to review investments, especially in the creation of oil reserves in India, the people said.
Jaishankar visited Saudi Arabia in September to co-chair the inaugural ministerial meeting of the committee on Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation (PSSC) with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
The two sides reviewed bilateral relationship and discussed progress under four joint working groups focused on political issues, legal and security issues, social and cultural issues, and defence cooperation.