Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners languishing in its jails, India said after he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. The crown prince made the decision on a request from Modi.
“Another big deliverable!” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, referring to the release of prisoners. He also announced that the crown prince had increased the quota for Indian Haj pilgrims to 2 lakh at Modi’s request. The present quota is around 1.75 lakh pilgrims, IANS reported.
Both sides also agreed on the need for “creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”.
Salman also “underlined the importance of comprehensive sanctioning” of terrorists and their organisations by the United Nations, the joint statement said. In a joint press conference earlier in the day, Modi said the Pulwama attack of February 14 was a “cruel reminder” of the menace of terrorism. The attack, claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed extremist group, killed 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel.
Salman said extremism and terrorism are common concerns for the two countries, and assured India of cooperation on all fronts.
The joint statement, released late at night, said that the two sides also noted the need for concerted action by the international community against terrorism including through early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The protocol was first suggested by India in 1996.
“Both sides called up on all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy,” the statement added. “They also called upon all states to deny access to weapons including missiles and drones to commit terrorist acts against other countries.”
Modi welcomed the changes Salman had introduced in Saudi Arabia to embrace moderation. The crown prince, in turn, “conveyed his appreciation for Indian model of ethos of inclusiveness, pluralism and tolerance”, the statement said.
Salman had arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday night, and was received by Modi at the airport. The Congress has criticised Modi for breaking protocol by personally welcoming Salman. The crown prince left for China late in the evening.
Saudi Arabia’s agreements with Pakistan
The Saudi prince’s visit came two days after he signed deals worth $20 billion in Pakistan. The prince had praised Islamabad for its efforts for regional peace and security soon after the Pulwama terror attack. Salman had praised Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “openness and efforts” for a dialogue with India. He had stressed that talks were necessary for “peace and stability in the region”.