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 seven memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals and others.
The MoUs were signed by Pakistani ministers and their Saudi counterparts on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and the prime minister and "cover areas such as Standard Specifications, Mineral Resources, Investment in Refining and Petro Chemical Sectors, power generation, development of renewable energy projects, and cooperation in the Field of Youth and Sports," the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement.
The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel onwards to India and China.
On a personal request by PM Khan to the Saudi crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures inside Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said Saudi Arabia would do “whatever we can do” to oblige Pakistan.
“Just consider me in Saudi Arabia the ambassador of Pakistan,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.
He 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,” the crown prince said. “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, the prime minister 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, jointly 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,” the statement said.
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 said, adding that “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia had 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 China’s ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, the Pakistani prime minister said he hoped Saudi Arabia would participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”
“We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably what is the biggest market in the world, which is China,” the Pakistani prime minister said. “So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”