Saudi crown prince praises ‘deep relations’ with US as he meets Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia has been a great friend to the United States and is a "great purchaser" and "investor" in its economy. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meeting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, Mar 20, 2018. (AP)
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Updated 21 March 2018
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Saudi crown prince praises ‘deep relations’ with US as he meets Donald Trump

WASHINGTON: A new “renaissance” was apparent in the artfully decorated Oval Office on Tuesday — as Saudi-US ties reached new heights after the tumultuous years of the Obama administration. 
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, embarking on a lengthy multi-city tour of the US, was greeted at the White House with a warm handshake by President Donald Trump, who said the relationship between the two states is now as good as it has “ever been.”
The meeting, attended by a small but raucous press corps, reinforced the reset in the countries’ relations following tensions under the previous US administration — and shows they are edging closer in trade, defense, and security ties, analysts said last night. 
“We are the oldest ally (of the) United States of America in the Middle East — more than 80 years,” the crown prince said during the meeting at the White House, welcoming the “deep relations” between the two countries.
Speaking in English, Crown Prince Mohammed pointed out significant Saudi investments in the US.
The meeting between Trump and the crown prince came on the same day that the US Senate voted to kill a resolution calling for an end to the US involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The resolution, drafted by senators including Bernie Sanders, was defeated by a 55-44 margin.
President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia and the US have a “great relationship” and that the Kingdom is assisting in the fight against terror financing.
“We have a zero tolerance for the funding of terrorists. And we’re working very hard, and I will say that Saudi Arabia has been working very hard on that,” he said.
He said the relationship between the nations was “very very strained” during former President Barack Obama’s tenure, but that he and the crown prince have become “very good friends in a short period of time.”
“The relationship now is probably as good as it has really ever been, and I think will probably only get better,” he said.

Talks were also expected to extend to cover Iran, which Saudi Arabia accuses of financing terrorism and meddling in regional countries’ affairs. The Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday called the nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers a “flawed agreement,” and Trump has made clear he plans to exit the agreement unless changes are made to it.
“Iran has not been treating that part of the world, or the world itself, appropriately. A lot of bad things are happening in Iran. The deal is coming up in one month and you will see what happens,” Trump said on Tuesday. 
Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst in Washington, said that the meeting between Trump and the crown prince shows that ties between the countries are stronger.
“There is no doubt that the US-Saudi relationship is having a renaissance,” he said, adding that the two men have an “extraordinary” personal relationship.
“They probably see each other as mirror images. Trump wants to make America great again ... and Mohammed bin Salman wants to make Saudi Arabia great again,” said Neubauer.
It also emerged this week that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and US are launching a trilateral security forum to address Iran’s “malign activity” in the Middle East and other strategic issues.
The forum, to be held at the national security adviser level, will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance, including the US’ South Asia strategy, the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the war in Yemen, according to a US senior administration official.
Firas Maksad, director of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, said that the news showed that the US is looking to build closer ties with its allies in the Arabian Gulf.
“At a time of great change, both in Washington and in the Middle East, the announced trilateral security group signals US determination to coordinate more effectively with its closest Arab allies,” he told Arab News.
Crown Prince Mohammed also met today with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, according to the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
He also met with Senate majority and minority leaders, the house majority leader, the Senate majority whip, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. 
The crown prince briefed the members on the Kingdom’s plans for economic transformation through Vision 2030, including recent reforms to empower women and youth in Saudi society.


Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

Updated 4 min 31 sec ago
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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

  • Narendra Modi becomes first Indian prime minister in 40 years to return to power with a majority
  • Election results are a big blow to Rahul Gandhi-led opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scored a landslide election victory, increasing its seats in Parliament after a bitter and divisive campaign.

The results amount to a massive blow for the 133-year-old Congress Party, which dominated India’s political life for more than 50 years after the country gained independence in 1947. Narendra Modi has made history by becoming India’s first prime minister in the last 40 years to be re-elected with a parliamentary majority.

The BJP on its own is expected to have a little over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house), more than it had in the outgoing chamber. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP is a part, will have nearly 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress Party is expected to finish with just 55 seats, albeit 11 more than its 2014 election tally. By most projections, the Congress-led opposition alliance will not even have 100 seats. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi suffered a major personal setback in the family borough, the constituency of Amethi in northern India, where he lost to a Modi Cabinet minister. But Gandhi won his second seat in Wayanad in the south by a big margin. 

“I concede defeat and congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning the elections,” Gandhi said on Thursday. He has offered to resign from his post in his party’s most powerful organizational body, the Congress Working Committee, but political analysts say it is highly unlikely that his resignation will be accepted.

The margin of the BJP’s victory has come as a surprise to many, with the party not only retaining its seats in the battleground states of northern and western India, but also expanding its footprint in two eastern states: West Bengal and Odisha. “Together, we’ll build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!” Modi tweeted after the results showed the BJP sweeping to victory.

Shashi Shekhar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told Arab News: “This is a phenomenal election victory that has stumped all the pollsters. The BJP was expected to face a big challenge from the opposition alliance in some of the crucial states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together account for 128 seats. But it seems the narrative of muscular nationalism propagated by the BJP overcame all challenges. There’s a now a genuine fear that if the BJP continues with its old policy of marginalizing religious minorities, India might turn into a majoritarian state. However, I hope Modi’s second term turns out to be more inclusive.”

Modi’s India can do its bit for Middle East and Gulf stability

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political commentator, said: “The Congress Party failed to capture the imagination of the people. The party’s slogans didn’t click with voters the way the BJP’s did.”

Against this backdrop of an imminent decisive win, Modi began to receive messages of congratulations from world leaders on Thursday. Among them was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.

In his second term, in addition to addressing economic problems at home, Modi will need to keep a close eye on relations with neighboring Pakistan. Bilateral relations remain tense months after they came close to war following a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on paramilitary soldiers, and an Indian air raid deep inside Pakistan.

“There’s no alternative to dialogue,” said Kulkarni. “We should expect that with a renewed mandate (for Modi’s government), there should be a fresh attempt to engage with Islamabad.”