One day before the Indian Prime Minister is due arrive in Saudi Arabia, an Indian government official has said that the trip is part of a diplomatic strategy to "deal with" their rival Pakistan. Narendra Modi will arrive in Saudi Arabia on 2 April for a two-day visit that aims to reignite India's partnership with the oil-rich country.
Prime Minister Modi is expected to sign a number of trade agreements, as well as secure investment for infrastructure projects in India. It is thought that the two countries will also make deals for security and military cooperation.
Ram Madhav, national general secretary of Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told Reuters: "It's simple. We have to do everything to deal with Pakistan – use economics, strategy and emotional ties to win the hearts of Islamabad's friends."
Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia comes months after he made an official trip to another Pakistan ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While there, the Indian leader signed a security agreement that will include regular meetings between top security advisers from both countries.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been allies for decades due to their shared Sunni Muslim majorities. The Middle Eastern country has also been a source of financial aid for Islamabad, with the Saudis giving them a "gift" of $1.5bn in 2014.
However, Modi's visit to Riyadh comes as relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have weakened in recent months. Pakistan denied to provide ships and troops to the Saudi-led fight in Yemen in 2015 and has also avoided taking sides in Riyadh's dispute with Iran.
Zahid Hussain, a former newspaper editor in Pakistan, told Reuters: "Pakistan knows that relations with Saudi have come to a low. That doesn't mean that India can fill that gap. But certainly this is part of Modi's diplomatic offensive in the region."
On 31 March Saudi Arabia and the United States imposed joint sanctions against the Pakistan-based terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, who were responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Relations between India and Pakistan have also been on edge after suspected Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian Army Air Force base in January 2016.
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