ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will welcome Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday for the start of a rare Asian tour where the powerful heir will set the seal on growing closeness and sign investment deals worth over $20 billion.
The trip, being treated by Islamabad as the biggest state visit in years, is the first by the crown prince to Pakistan as the South Asian nation of 208 million fights to secure its financial future in the face of a yawning current account deficit. In an interview on Saturday, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said he hoped Saudi Arabia and Pakistan could join hands to mobilize the international community to resolve the dispute in Kashmir.
During the crown prince’s visit, agreements of over $20 billion will be signed after a meeting of a joint “supreme coordination council” co-chaired by Prime Minister Khan and the crown prince on Sunday evening, Pakistani information minister Fawad Chaudhry told Arab News.
“Deals are expected in an oil refinery and petrocomplex in Gwadar of about $10 billion,” the minister said. “Other than that there will be deals in the mineral sector, four power plants, in renewable energy, more oil on deferred payments, internal security, culture and sports, exchange of prisoners and many other areas.”
Watch the arrival ceremony of Saudi Crown Prince to Pakistan
A contingent of about 25 business accompanying the crown prince is also expected to seek private investments in Pakistan in the fields of food processing, IT, finance, construction and hospitality.
Last year, Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan $6 billion in financial support to help it see through a balance-of-payments crisis. The Saudi largess has also given Pakistan much-needed breathing space as lengthy bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund continue.
When the Saudi crown prince’s plane enters Pakistani airspace near the port city of Karachi on Sunday evening, the “Sherdils” aerobatics display squad of the Pakistan Air Force will present an “airborne salute” to the visiting delegation, the information minister said. Six JF-17 Thunder aircrafts will then escort the crown prince’s plane to the Nur Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi, the twin city to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
At the air base, the crown prince will be received by Prime Minister Khan and taken to the Prime Minister House in Islamabad where he will be presented with a 21-gun salute and a guard of honor.
The prime minister and the crown prince will then host a meeting of a “supreme coordination council,” a mechanism devised by both countries to sign and implement investment deals. The meeting will be attended by the finance, commerce, investment, information, defense, overseas citizens’ and other ministers of both countries.
At least eight memoranda of understanding (MoUs) will be signed after the meeting of the coordination council, Chaudhry said.
“The crown prince will then attend a dinner reception at the Prime Minister House of about 110 guests, 50 or so from the Pakistani side and the same number from the Saudi side,” Chaudhry said. “He will stay overnight at the prime minister house.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Khan and the crown prince will co-chair meetings of various joint working groups including on trade and investment, energy, science, culture and information and media.
The crown prince will also attend a luncheon hosted by President Arif Alvi on Monday and be presented with the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award by the government of Pakistan for services to the country.
The last foreign recipient of the prize was Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 when he visited Pakistan and announced the $60 billion China Pakistan economic Corridor of energy and infrastructure projects. Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud received the award in 2006.
The crown prince will also meet Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, during his visit. He will fly out of Pakistan on Monday and head to India, followed by a trip to China.