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Saudi crown prince begins Asia tour with $20 billion Pakistan investment pledge

Saudi crown prince begins Asia tour with $20 billion Pakistan investment pledge

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday stated Saudi Arabia has signed funding agreements value $20 billion throughout his high-profile go to to Pakistan, the place tensions had been flaring up with nuclear-armed rival India.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a commencement ceremony for the 95th batch of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Courtroom/Handout through REUTERS

Kicking off his tour of South Asia and China with a far larger Pakistan funding than anticipated, the crown prince stated the $20 billion determine represents solely the beginning of an financial tie-up that might convey the historic Muslim allies even nearer.

“It’s massive for section 1, and positively it is going to develop each month and yearly, and it is going to be helpful to each nations,” stated the crown prince.

“We have now been a brotherly nation, a pleasant nation to Pakistan. We’ve walked collectively in robust and good occasions, and we (will) proceed.”

However Prince Mohammed’s go to is vulnerable to being overshadowed by Pakistan’s rising tensions with India. Earlier this week a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police within the disputed Kashmir area. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of getting a hand within the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement.

Money-strapped and in want of pals, Pakistan welcomed the crown prince with open arms and in grandiose style, together with sending fighter jets to information his incoming aircraft as soon as it entered Pakistani airspace.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s military chief Qamar Javed Bajwa greeted Prince Mohammed on the purple carpet of a army airport within the garrison city of Rawalpindi, earlier than Khan personally drove the crown prince to the capital Islamabad.

“Saudi Arabia has all the time been a pal in want, which is why we worth it a lot,” stated Khan, whereas seated subsequent to Prince Mohammed. “I wish to thanks for the way in which you helped us once we had been in dangerous scenario.”

Saudi Arabia has in latest months helped hold Pakistan’s financial system afloat by propping up its quickly dwindling overseas alternate reserves with a $6 billion mortgage, giving Islamabad respiratory room because it negotiates a bailout with the Worldwide Financial Fund.

Islamabad has proven appreciation by treating Prince Mohammed’s journey as the most important state go to since Chinese language President Xi Jinping in 2015, quickly after Beijing introduced plans to speculate tens of billions of on infrastructure in Pakistan as a part of China’s international Belt and Highway initiative.

The tour is seen as a try by the crown prince to rebuild his popularity after the homicide of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, analysts say. Many within the West blamed Prince Mohammed for the killing, which triggered the dominion’s greatest political disaster for a technology. He has denied being concerned.

He had additionally deliberate to go to Indonesia and Malaysia through the tour, however these journeys have been postponed, in response to Malaysian and Indonesian officers.

In Pakistan, many of the agreements signed centered on vitality tasks, together with a $10 billion refinery and petrochemicals advanced within the coastal metropolis of Gwadar, the place China is constructing a port. Memorandums of understanding had been additionally signed for investments in minerals and agriculture, Khan stated.

The 2 nations’ relationship has prior to now centered on oil-rich Saudi Arabia backing Pakistan’s financial system throughout troublesome durations, and in return Pakistan’s highly effective military lending help to Saudi Arabia and its royal household.

Because the guardians of most holy websites within the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi royal household carries huge spiritual clout in Pakistan, a staunchly conservative and primarily Muslim nation of 208 million folks.

“What is occurring on this relationship is a renewal of Pakistan’s dedication to assist defend the royal household and the order because it exists in Saudi Arabia,” stated Mosharraf Zaidi, Senior Fellow at Tabadlab, a Pakistani suppose tank centered on international and native public coverage.

“On the flip facet, there’s reassurance that Saudi Arabia is not going to solely proceed to function a strategic pal who will assist shore up Pakistan’s funds when wanted, but it surely’s additionally going to change into a participant within the wider funding in Pakistan.”

Prince Mohammed was additionally set to satisfy representatives of the Afghan Taliban militant group to debate peace negotiations to finish the 17-year civil warfare in Afghanistan, Pakistani authorities and militant sources stated.

However that was unlikely after the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated the group’s deliberate conferences with Khan and U.S. officers in Islamabad had been referred to as off.

Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Further reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR and Abdul Qadir Sediqi in KABUL; Enhancing by Nick Macfie, Sam Holmes and Mark Potter

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

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