Islamabad   -   Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman landed in Islamabad Sunday evening for a two-day landmark visit and received a splendid and warm welcome.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed a string of cooperation and investment agreements worth $20 billion as part their efforts to turn their close relationship into a more strong and long-term economic and strategic partnership.

“Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends. So Saudi Arabia has always been ‘a friend in need’, which is why we value you so much,” said Premier Khan while speaking at a reception hosted to the Saudi guests at the Prime Minister House.

He expressed his resolve to take the bilateral relations to an unprecedented level for the mutual benefit of both brotherly Islamic states.

“We’ve been a brotherly and friendly country to Pakistan, and we’ve walked together in tough and good times, and we continue the same thing,” Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said, reciprocating Khan’s sentiments.

“We cannot say no to Pakistan, whatever you [Pakistan] want we will do,” he remarked.

The Crown Prince expressed satisfied confidence in the leadership of Pakistan. He said that the signing of $20 billion agreements was just a start as he expected Saudi investment to grow to a much bigger size over time.

He also expressed his great hope in the region of the Middle East, and said that was the reason for the huge investments being made by Saudi Arabia. “...we believe that one day we are going to have a Great Middle East, surrounded by Pakistan from the East side.”

 

Warm welcome

Prime Minister Imran Khan warmly hugged Prince Mohammed bin Salam, who alighted from his plane with broad smile on his face. The PM then introduced him to Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his other cabinet colleagues present to welcome the distinguished guest.

Two children attired in gleaming traditional dresses presented flowers and a 21-gun salute was given to the heir to the Saudi throne.

Pakistan Air Force F-16 and JF-17 aircrafts earlier escorted the Crown Prince’s jet as it entered Pakistani airspace and landed at Noor Khan Airbase around 8pm.

Prime Minister Khan personally drove the dignitary from the Noor Khan airbase in Chaklala to Prime Minister House. Both leaders were seen chatting with a visible display of mutual bonhomie as PM Khan drove the vehicle.

The route was studded with banners and pole-hangings welcoming the visiting dignitary and highlighting the love and fraternity the people of Pakistan have with their Saudi brethren. At places cultural troupe depicting the regional culture seemed welcoming the Saudi Crown Prince by presenting traditional dance.

The Crown Prince was presented with a Guard of Honour by a sharply dressed military contingent at the PM House, which was lit with decorative lights. Artisans dressed in colourful dresses welcomed the guests as they entered the compound.

The famed Triple-one Brigade of the country’s armed forces and Saudi Royal Guards are jointly performing the security duties during the trip of the Crown Prince, which is his first state visit to Pakistan since becoming the heir to the throne in 2017.

Prime Minister Khan presented his cabinet members to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. After a tree plantation ceremony, the prime minister had a one-on-one meeting with the Saudi leader.

This was followed by the inaugural session of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SCC), co-chaired by the prime minister and the Crown Prince.

Before hosting of a sumptuous dinner by the premier, the two leaders oversaw the signing ceremony of eight MoUs in different sectors – including agriculture, energy, tourism and construction fields. The accords are of a total worth of 20 billion dollars and include the one for setting up of an oil refinery in Gwadar.

The leading Saudi businessmen who are part of the Crown Prince’s entourage have also shown interest in various projects, particularly in energy sector, and under an estimate over the next five years around $40 billion would be coming from the Kingdom in various sectors in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address said that the crown prince had been given a rousing reception on his arrival which is testament to his popularity.

The PM invited Saudi Crown Prince to become part of the CPEC as it would provide connectivity to China the biggest market in the world and hoped that Saudi Arabia would avail this opportunity.

Referring to his chat with Crown Prince while he was driving him to Prime Minister’s House from the airbase Prime Minister Khan said that he was astonished to know that Saudi Arabia would be having over 80 million tourists a year.

He said that though Pakistan despite having massive tourism potential was not having that quantum of tourists but in a lighter vein said that Pakistan was ahead in mountain tourism than Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Salman bin Mohammed reciprocated the sentiments of PM Khan and saw great and prosperous future of Pakistan under his “great leadership”.

Referring to the signing of eight MoUs worth $20 billion initially, he saw the economic relations and cooperation between the two countries to swell in days to come.

MBS said, “We are very glad to be today in Pakistan, a dear country to all Saudis...”

 

Today’s schedule

Today, the Saudi Crown Prince will meet with a delegation of the Senate at the PM House. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will hold a meeting with MBS around noon.

The Saudi guests will meet President Arif Alvi in the afternoon and a lunch will be hosted at the Presidency. A cultural performance is scheduled during the lunch, officials said.

The Crown Prince will leave Islamabad for the second-leg of his foreign visit early Monday evening.

In an interview with an Arab TV aired before the Saudi visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan was quoted as saying that he shares the vision of the Saudi Crown Prince.

The high-level Saudi visit comes at a time when talks are taking place between the Afghan Taliban and the United States over an agreement to end the war in Afghanistan.

There have been news reports that an Afghan Taliban delegation could separately meet Prime Minister Khan and some members of the visiting Saudi delegation Monday in Islamabad. However, some Pakistan officials said there were little chances of such a meeting happening.

 

 About SCC

The high-powered Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SCC) was proposed by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia in October 2018.

The objective to put in place an high level institutional mechanism to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation.

The council includes respective ministers of foreign affairs, defense, defense production, finance, energy, petroleum, water resources, information, culture, interior, commerce, trade and investment and human resources of both countries.

The SCC will cover areas under three pillars: political and security, economic, social and culture.

Under this council, a steering committee and joint working groups have been set up at ministerial and senior official levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective ministers.

The functioning of the Supreme Council will be coordinated by the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries. The SCC will meet annually in Riyadh and Islamabad alternately.