Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman touches down in Pakistan

Crown prince announces initial investment of $20bn

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Saudi Arabia will invest $20 billion (Dh73.45bn) in Pakistan with the possibility of more in the future.

This, the crown prince said, is the "first phase" of a series of investments that "will certainly grow each month and every year".

Prince Mohammed is in Pakistan for a two-day tour at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan after delaying his trip by a day.

The Saudi royal was welcomed to Islamabad on Sunday by JF-17 and F-16 fighter jets, which escorted his plane as it entered Pakistani airspace.

The crown prince began the tour by holding talks with Mr Khan, according to the Saudi Press Agency. During the meeting seven bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed, including an agreement to finance the supply of crude oil and petroleum products to Pakistan.

Both sides also signed up to a technical co-operation programme between the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation and the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority.

Prince Mohammed is also expected to sign off on a $10 billion oil refinery.

His visit comes amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and its arch rival India following a suicide bombing in the disputed Kashmir region that killed at least 40 Indian troops and was blamed on a Pakistan-based separatist group.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned of a "crushing response" to Thursday's attack.

Pakistan is the Saudi crown prince's first stop on an Asian tour aimed at building the kingdom's business ties in the east. However, his visits to Malaysia and Indonesia have been postponed, the two countries' foreign ministries said without giving any reason, leaving only Pakistan, China and India on the itinerary.

Mr Khan has sought investment from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to support his country's economy and is also negotiating a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan also expects to sign agreements worth up to $10bn with the UAE, the head of the country's board of investment told The National recently.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, visited Pakistan in January in a show of solidarity, while Mr Khan has made several visits to the UAE and Saudi Arabia since taking office last August. Both countries pledged billions of dollars to support Pakistan as it deals with a balance of payments crisis.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Saudi crown prince's visit would have "a significant impact in driving solid ties to higher levels between the two countries".

“We are very pleased with the visit of the crown prince, who seeks to establish effective communication at all levels," Mr Qureshi told the Arsharq Al Awsat newspaper.

The foreign minister praised the contributions of Saudi Arabia and the UAE towards negotiating an end to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and said Pakistan was determined to continue its fight to eliminate extremism.

Updated: February 18, 2019 10:31 AM

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