Ordinarily, the prime minister would not receive a foreign dignitary at the airport, but instead send an official or a junior government minister.
“A new chapter in bilateral relations,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, posted on Twitter, hailing Modi “breaking protocol” with a photograph of the pair warmly clasping hands by the steps of the prince’s plane.
Modi is due to hold talks today with the crown prince, who has already visited Pakistan, where he also received a lavish reception.
The trip has taken on extra dimension after a bombing in the disputed Kashmir region on Thursday that India blamed on Pakistan. The neighbors are each keen to cement ties with Saudi Arabia even as tensions between them have risen sharply.
Saudi Arabia is India’s top supplier of crude oil but the two countries have expanded ties beyond energy, and their governments have agreed to build a strategic partnership, India’s Foreign Ministry said last week.