There has been much mystery surrounding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Bit by bit though, the details over the potential gains of any development with the Kingdom are starting to filter through.

Reports from meetings held between the two countries reveal some potential game-changing developments could occur. A plan is in the talks for supply of more than 100,000 barrels per day (BPD) on deferred payment and more than $12 billion investment, particularly in Gwadar. Whispers also hint of an early harvest programme for refinery, oil storage and investment in LNG projects and Reko Diq on the pattern of the CPEC programme.

No doubt, these developments, if true, could bring about considerable economic benefits to Pakistan, which is currently direly in need of breathing space. An arrangement for oil supplies on delayed payments could lend huge support to Pakistan’s balance of payments account. These investments by KSA, if finalised, may just be the piece in the puzzle that the PTI government needed to avoid going to the IMF for a bailout.

Yet, when it comes to foreign policy, no investment is purely economic. There are always strings attached with any decision, and this hand of friendship is likely to have effects in our policy in the Middle East. A Saudi Oil refinery and storage facility in Gwadar is a geo-strategic installation, designed to counter Iranian control over the straits of Homruz by establishing an alternative route. While it will increase the strategic importance of Gwadar, it has the potential of permanently skewing the balance maintained by Pakistan in its Middle East policy unless handled with care.

Perhaps the most bothersome part of this development is the lack of transparency in what could be decisions that could alter Pakistan’s landscape and foreign policy. When it comes to such major developments, consultation needs to be made with parliamentarians, and particularly the representatives of the regions where the developmental change is planned. For one, Reko Diq falls in the jurisdiction of the Balochistan provincial government; to finalise a deal for investment in the constituency without cooperating with the Balochistan government does not set a good example for provincial autonomy.

When it comes to such major foreign developments, the nation needs to be taken on board with any potential decisions, instead of being left to piece the bits together. It is no wonder then that the Senate yesterday criticised the government yesterday on the ambiguity of the Saudi-Pak developments; its call for more open deliberation on the matter should be respected.