Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday arrives on his maiden two-day visit to the oil-rich Saudi kingdom as both countries are set to firm up a raft of pacts to bolster their strategic partnership besides exploring ways to enhance security and counter-terror cooperation.

Combating threat of terrorism and radicalisation are expected to figure high on the agenda of the talks between Modi and the leadership of Saudi Arabia, a country known as spiritual home of Islam which recently has formed a major coalition of 34 Muslim nations to fight terror, particularly the ISIS.

India’s ties with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s leading oil producers, have been on an upswing over the last two decades based on burgeoning energy ties and both countries
may look to move beyond buyer-seller relationship in the sector and go for joint ventures and investment in refineries and oil fields.

In this context, Modi may seek deeper involvement of Indian companies in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in the Gulf nation whose economy has been hit due to falling crude prices, cut in oil exports and slowing down of domestic consumption.

The Prime Minister will hold extensive talks with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on range of bilateral issues tomorrow following which both sides will sign a number of MoUs.

Separately, he will also meet Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

The Prime Minister arrived in Riyadh from Washington on the final leg of his three-nation tour that began on March 30 with a visit to Brussels.

Security and counter-terror cooperation between India and Saudi had gotten a boost after then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit here six years back during which both countries
had elevated their ties to the strategic partnership level. The security cooperation has been improving since then.

Saudi Arabia has close ties with Islamabad and the India may raise the issue of Pakistan-based terror groups carrying out attacks on it. Modi had visited United Arab Emirates, another close ally of Pakistan, in August and both sides, in a joint statement, had called on all states to abandon use of terror against other countries which was seen as a message to Islamabad.

Modi and his delegation are staying at the majestic King Saud Guest Palace at the heart of the city.

He is the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Manmohan Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.

Modi’s visit here comes amid the current turmoil in the Middle East and the issue is likely to figure prominently in the deliberations he will have with Saudi leadership.

There are over 2.96 million Indian nationals working in Saudi Arabia, the largest expatriate community in the country, and Modi is expected to raise issues concerning them during his talks with the king.

Modi’s engagements include meeting top CEOs of major Saudi companies, visit the famous Masmak fort, interaction with the Indian community and visit to a Tata Consultancy centre which had trained over 1,000 Saudi women.

Saudi Arabia plans to invest USD one trillion in infrastructure development over the next five years and Modi is likely to pitch for participation of Indian companies in the projects.