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MBS's diplomatic stride

MBSs diplomatic stride

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visits to Pakistan and India have been of great significance to Saudi Arabia. Though it is the neighbouring countries who are deemed to accrue a larger piece of the pie from their respective bilateral ties with the Kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman's venturing in East has a larger picture than just improving bilateral ties and strategic cooperation with the nuclear nations. Seldom would anyone deny the significant presence of the Gulf nation as a cooperator since agreements with them always augur well for any nation's oil and energy fronts. Both India and even Pakistan can reinvigorate relationship ties and attract Saudi investment in their economy which has been the case evident from the Saudi Crown Prince's recent visit to both nations. Remaining largely silent on the Pulwama incident may have drawn criticism for Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) but India understands the importance of such ties. Petrochemical investments by Saudi Arabia have been a crucial step and MBS's visit only strengthens the possibility of proliferation of the same. MBS made announcements with respect to both the countries before heading off to China for the third leg of his tour. Announcements appreciated by both Pakistan and India comprehensively showcase Saudi's attempt at improving ties with the Asian nations. At the heart of these diplomatic Saudi adventures lies a progressive reformer, as described by many, in MBS – the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia since 2015. Known for bringing in economic as well as social reforms, MBS's rise to power by allegedly eliminating his rivals attaches a contrasting persona to his name. After being embroiled in the global outcry over the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, MBS struck the headlines with his grand anti-graft drive which stormed the Kingdom – retrieving more than 400 billion Saudi Riyad, around $106 billion, in cash, real estate and other assets. After the initial denial from the Kingdom over any responsibility in the death of Khashoggi, they later showcased it as work of rogue Saudi operatives – eclipsing any involvement of the Royal Crown. MBS's image, if tarnished over the Khashoggi incident, gained popularity over his crackdown on dozens of princes and businessmen as Saudi wrapped up a prolonged corruption probe in January. His liberalism policy seemed to please the global eye as he lifted the ban on women driving in the country but an in-depth study narrates how several activists were apprehended, and maybe still incarcerated, fighting for the same cause against the regime over a long time. MBS managed to take the limelight augmenting his reformist outlook to the world. His further proactive stance in the middle-east over regional tension due to the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran adds to his persona. Being conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan, highest honour in Pakistan, for his outstanding support in reinvigorating the ties between two nations certainly adds to his name which took a nosedive in the backdrop of Khashoggi's assassination. But just as his visits to Pakistan and India with diplomatic agenda garner some rise in his reputation as a liberal and reformist Crown Prince, his silence over Pakistan's involvement in both Baluchistan and Pulwama attacks make him an equally capable diplomat. His assertion over the terror incidents in his eye would mean politicising the issue which he would most-certainly refrain from. India and Saudi Arabia agreed to constitute a 'comprehensive security dialogue' to set up a joint working group on counter-terrorism marking a significant step in the counter-terrorism argument. While Saudi's assertion of a strong relationship with both India and Pakistan respectively makes it a prime mediator promoting a conducive environment for Indo-Pak talks, Riyadh's lack of interest in mediating any talks and urging for a bilateral dialogue of Indo-Pak glorifies its diplomatic position, much like MBS's himself. Nevertheless, MBS's investment promise augurs well for India which may grow in dire need of oil should it face shortage due to unforeseen disruptions. Further, the energy sector is one where the two nations can actively collaborate and which is completely independent of the terrorism argument where MBS did not make much elaboration apart from the fact that Saudi will provide intel to India – something they will do for Pakistan as well – to counter terrorism in the region. MBS also ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners on Modi's request apart from the announcement regarding an increase in quota for Indian Haj pilgrims to 2 lakh. This highlights MBS's humbleness, a crucial plus for his image coupled with Nishaan-e-Pakistan. Pleasing India and Pakistan, and China, Indonesia and Malaysia, will definitely give MBS a reputation boost backed by his lucrative offers to these Asian nations in Oil – an essential resource for all these nations. While MBS's promise of intelligence regarding counter-terrorism is subject to doubt, his promise of investment augurs well for it on the economic front. And, in the end, that is enough cooperation India needs – leaving Pulwama, Kashmir, Counter-terrorism as issues it will have to directly confront Pakistan with, as the Kingdom subtly asserted.

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