Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

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Mohammed bin Salman and Imran Khan at a banquet held in the crown princes honor. (SPA)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
Updated 18 February 2019

Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

  • Consider me ‘the ambassador of Pakistan’ in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman tells Imran Khan
  • Pakistani PM: Islamabad, Riyadh have elevated their relationship to ‘level where it has never been before’

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to consider him the “ambassador of Pakistan” in Saudi Arabia moments after the two countries signed key memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion on Sunday in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing.

The MoUs were signed by Pakistani and Saudi ministers on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and Khan.

The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel to India and China.

He was received by Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as he landed in Rawalpindi. The crown prince was given a 21-gun salute upon arrival.

A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets had escorted his plane after its entry into Pakistani airspace.

Khan broke protocol by personally driving the crown prince from the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of Islamabad.

On a personal request by Khan to the crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures in Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said the Kingdom will do “whatever we can do” to oblige Islamabad.

 

“Just consider me the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.

The crown prince said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had signed investment MoUs worth $20 billion.

“It’s big for phase one, and definitely it’s going to grow … and be beneficial for both countries,” he added.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future, and we want to be sure that we are part of that.”

Earlier, Khan and the crown prince had a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, co-chaired by the two leaders.

The council was formed “to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation,” the Prime Minister House said in a statement on Sunday night.

“Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a Steering Committee and Joint Working Groups have been set up at Ministerial and Senior Officials levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective Ministers.”

Khan and the crown prince will co-chair sessions of the joint working groups on Monday. “For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” Khan said in a speech delivered after the signing of the MoUs.

“Saudi Arabia has always been a friend for Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends,” he added.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis.

Speaking about the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of energy and infrastructure projects that forms a key node in Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, Khan expressed hope that Saudi Arabia will participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”

He said: “We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably … the biggest market in the world, which is China. So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office earlier thanked the crown prince for “generously” reducing Saudi visa fees at Khan’s request.

The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad announced on Friday that non-pilgrimage visit visa fees for single entry has been lowered from SR2,000 ($533) to SR338, while the fee for a multiple-entry visa has been reduced from SR3,000 to SR675. The new fee structure came into effect on Feb. 15.


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”