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Saudi crown prince arrives on maiden visit to Pakistan

2 allies are expected to ink several economic deals worth nearly $20 billion

Saudi crown prince arrives on maiden visit to Pakistan Saudi crown prince arrives on maiden visit to Pakistan

By Aamir Latif and Islamuddin Sajid


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Sunday arrived on his maiden visit to Pakistan.

Bin Salman together with a nearly 100-member high profile delegation landed at the Noor Khan airbase in Islamabad.

A red carpet was rolled out for him and Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa and senior ministers received him.

His special plane was escorted by Pakistan Air Force jets as soon as it entered Pakistan's airspace following a 21-gun salute, state-run Pakistan Television reported.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir who is also part of the royal delegation arrived in Islamabad separately, hours before the crown prince's arrival. His Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi received him, state television reported.

The two sides are expected to ink several trade and investment deals worth $20 billion during the much-publicized two-day visit.

The major portion of proposed Saudi investment will be disbursed for establishment of an oil refinery in the southwestern strategic port city of Gwadar.

This follows a $6-billion package announced by Riyadh in October to aid cash-strapped Islamabad. 

In addition to that, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power International plans to invest up to $4 billion in Pakistan's energy sector, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih announced in his meeting with Pakistan's Finance Minister Asad Umar in Islamabad on Sunday, said an official statement.

Soon after his arrival, bin Salman held a one-on-one meeting with Khan at the prime minister house, where he was also presented a guard of honor.

"Pakistan's future is bright. I am sure Pakistan will progress under the leadership of Imran khan," bin Salman said while addressing the reception.

This $20 billion investment is a beginning. Saudi Arabia will further invest in Pakistan in future, he added.

Later, the two jointly chaired the meeting of Supreme Coordination Council, a committee that has been formed to monitor the execution of multi-billion dollar projects to be signed between the two countries.

The next leg of bin Salman's Asia trip will be India, Pakistan's arch-rival. Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have escalated after a deadly suicide bombing earlier this week on an Indian army convoy. New Delhi blames Pakistan for the attack, a charge Islamabad denies.

Riyadh has long been an economic and strategic partner of Islamabad, but avoids indulging in the lingering diplomatic row between Pakistan and India because of its huge investments in the two countries.

Last year, state oil company Saudi Aramco signed a $44-billion deal with India to build a mega refinery on India's west coast.

Last September, Pakistan formally invited Saudi Arabia to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative project, but a reported difference with Beijing could not materialize the offer.

Nevertheless, Riyadh agreed to invest in CPEC-related projects. It has already announced financing of three CPEC projects in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The CPEC signed in 2014 seeks to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to the port of Gwadar through a network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport cargo, oil and gas.

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