Pakistan pulls out all the stops to welcome Saudi crown prince

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Islamabad on Sunday evening on an official visit that is expected to include the signing of agreements for billions of dollars of investment in Pakistan. During their officials talks, the Crown Prince conveyed greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Imran Khan. The ceremony was held a day after Mohammad bin Salman signed investment deals worth $20 billion with Pakistan.

"Not travelling to the West does not mean that he can not come to the East. Saudi Arabia is also making strategic adjustments, and Asia is the new main direction of Saudi diplomacy", he said.

The Saudi crown prince had arrived in Pakistan on February 17 amid heightened security in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Earlier, Pakistan Air Force jets escorted Prince Mohammad's flight when he entered the country's airspace.

However, Saudi investment in Pakistan could complicate Prince Mohammed's attempts to forge closer economic and security ties with India, in light of the recent attack in Kashmir that killed at least 40 Indian military personnel, blamed on Pakistan.

The attack has sparked widespread calls in India for action against Pakistan.

Pakistan is in the grip of a major debt crisis and is seeking a $12 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund but has yet to sign the deal which comes with tough conditions.

The crown prince was greeted with a 21-gun salute and warm embraces from Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, just months after he was linked to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The move is at odds with other countries who have condemned the Kingdom over its role in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year.

And the Crown Prince has finally spoken out to address the rumours. Speaking on the occasion, the Crown Prince said that Pakistan will soon become a strong country, and Saudi Arabia wants to make sure to be part of that.

The Pakistani side appreciated Saudi Arabia's positive role in resolving the issues facing the Islamic Ummah.

"The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War II", he said.

In 2017, United attached itself to Saudi's Vision 2030 - a blueprint advanced by the crown prince to wean the kingdom off its reliance on oil.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul in October. At places cultural troupe depicting the regional culture seemed welcoming the Saudi Crown Prince by presenting traditional dance.

  • Sonia Alvarado