Saudi Crown Prince arrives in Pakistan on a two-day state visit

RAWALPINDI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Pakistan for a two-day state visit during which his ministers will sign investment deals worth more than $14bn.

Prince Mohammed was greeted by Prime Minister Imran Khan and given a red-carpet welcome with 21-gun salute.

Major roads in Islamabad were blocked off for Prince Mohammed’s arrival with more than 1,000 police checkpoints set up. Entry into the fortified diplomatic zone was banned, and the airspace over the city was shut down.

Saudi and Pakistani flags were on display throughout the city, alongside portraits of MBS and Imran Khan.

Analysts say Prince Mohammed’s trip is being treated by Pakistan as the biggest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, soon after Beijing announced plans to invest tens of billions of dollars on infrastructure in Pakistan as part of China’s global Belt and Road initiative.

In addition to holding talks with Khan, who has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since becoming prime minister last July, MBS is expected to meet army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and President Arif Alvi.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months helped keep Pakistan’s economy afloat by propping up its rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves with a $6bn loan, giving country breathing room as it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

During Prince Mohammed’s visit, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia “will be signing a number of agreements and MoUs related to diverse sectors, including investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports”, according to Pakistan’s foreign office.

That includes a $10bn refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port, as well as the possible acquisition of two major power plants by Saudi companies.

After Pakistan, MBS will travel toIndia, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

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