Saudi crown prince backs India's fight against terrorism

NEW DELHI — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday offered intelligence sharing and other cooperation with India in fighting extremism and terrorism, as New Delhi tackled rising tensions with Pakistan following a suicide bombing last week on Indian paramilitary soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

The crown prince, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his side, told reporters that he "shared India's concern on terrorism" but did not make any reference to Pakistan.

Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish Pakistan. India has placed the blame for the bombing squarely on Pakistan, which it accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.

Modi in his remarks to reporters referred to the attack and said steps would be taken to punish the perpetrators and their supporters. He didn't elaborate.

The crown prince said his visit will improve centuries-old ties between his country and India, which he said are "in our DNA."

"Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counterterrorism and tackling cybercrimes," Modi said.

Modi also called for strong action for combating extremism so that the powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead young people.

The two sides signed agreements on promoting investment, infrastructure, tourism, housing and communications. Their two-way trade totaled $27.5 billion last year.

The Saudi side also signed a framework agreement on the International Solar Alliance, a treaty-based international body for the promotion of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, according to India's External Affairs Ministry. It was launched by India and France on the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate conference.

The agreement aims to create credit mechanisms, crowd funding and sharing of technology to promote solar energy in 121 countries associated with the treaty.

Prince Mohammed said he saw a potential for $100 billion in investments in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services and said the two countries would evolve a strategy for mutual gain. He said Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.

Last year, Saudi Aramco in partnership with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. signed an agreement with Indian oil companies to jointly build an integrated refinery and petrochemical project at Ratnagiri in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

The crown prince's trip to India comes five months after he came under intense pressure following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. In keeping with a long-standing policy of not commenting on countries' internal affairs, India declined to take a position on the Washington Post columnist's killing by suspected Saudi agents.

The crown prince arrived in India on Tuesday night after visiting cash-strapped Pakistan, which voiced support for him amid the international outcry over Khashoggi's killing. The Saudi delegation signed $20 billion in investment deals and vowed to free thousands of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi custody.

India describes Saudi Arabia as a "key pillar" of its energy security. It provides about 17 percent of India's crude oil and about a third of its liquefied natural gas.

The relationship is likely to become more significant as a deadline nears for India to comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran, one of India's main oil providers.

Ties between India and Saudi Arabia, where millions of Indians are employed as migrant workers, have strengthened since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 for the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing.

Prince Mohammed was to leave New Delhi later Wednesday and make a two-day visit to China starting Thursday.

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