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Saudi Arabia to enhance economic and political ties with Pakistan, India and China during Asia Tour

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince visit of Pakistan, India and China is aiming at strengthening ties with the countries by signing trade agreements and investment deals for billions of dollars. Following are the highlights of MBS’s Asia Tour.

Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, started his Asia Tour with a visit of Pakistan, where he spent two days crammed with ceremonies and official meetings. There the Crown Prince is seen as a powerful ally with whom Pakistani officials hoped to sign package of loans and investment deals, including a major share in an oil refinery, aimed at helping revive Pakistan’s struggling economy.

Salman is the first Saudi leader to visit Pakistan in 15 years and the host country was more than explicit about his importance. With high security planned for the capital and breathless press coverage advancing his trip, nothing has been left to chance.

imran khan, saudi, prince, asia tour
Saudi Crown Prince and Pakistani Prime-Minister Imran Khan

As far as it concerns the political relations between both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it is visible that the first has been a powerful ally of the latter ever since the two countries signed a friendship treaty in 1951. The Saudi monarchy has come to its aid ever since by providing free supplies of oil, loans and aid.

At the end of his two-day visit Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince was awarded with the Nishan-e-Pakistan acknowledging his outstanding support for revitalizing bilateral relations between the two countries. The ceremony was telecast live on the state-run television and was held a day after

the Crown Prince announced multi-billion dollar investments in Pakistan.

The Saudi delegation travelling with the Crown Prince signed seven trade agreements on Sunday and $20 billion in investment deals in areas including mining, petrol and renewable energy.

“Pakistan is gonna be a very, very important country in the future and we want to be sure that we are part of that,” MBS emphasized. “We believe in our region that’s why we are investing in it and we believe that we are going to have one day a great Middle East surrounded by Pakistan from the east side,” he added.

In addition, MBS pledged the release of more than 2,000 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi prisons. Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudry posted the news on Twitter Monday:

As a sequel to Prime Minister of Pakistan request, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of KSA Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners Saudi Jails. #CrownPrinceinPakisatan #KSAPakistanNewEra
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry)

The Saudi leader’s visit, as part of his Asia tour, comes at a difficult moment for Pakistan, after 40 Indian security troops were killed in the border region of Kashmir and the bombing was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group. Even though Pakistani officials denied any involvement, the attack created fear that a new major crisis between India and Pakistan could erupt.

According to international experts Salman’s visit might help prevent a dangerous eruption of tensions with India. Saudi Arabia on Monday vowed to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. The remarks came as the Saudi Crown Prince prepared to leave Islamabad for New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The next stop of the Asia Tour, and a first state visit for MBS was India, where he was warmly welcomed by President Ram Nath Kovind who said India cherishes its cordial and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and considers the Gulf region as its extended neighborhood. The Crown Prince’s two-day visit is seen as a step towards boosting ties between the two nations. 

During the official welcoming for the Gulf nation’s Crown Prince at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India’s president said his country wishes to be a partner in Saudi Arabia’s ”Vision 2030”. He underlined as well the visible enhancement of bilateral trade over the past few years, while asserting that Saudi Arabia continues to be the most important source of energy for India.

asia tour, salman, india
A warm welcome for MBS in India

“We look at Saudi Arabia as a factor of stability in the region and beyond. India wishes to be a strong and reliable partner for the kingdom’s growth and progress. Indian companies have invested and created jobs in Saudi Arabia, especially in the technology sector, which is India’s strength,”  said President Kovind.

Against the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack, he added that terrorism is the gravest threat to humanity today and India, Saudi Arabia and the global community must come together to defeat and destroy these evil forces and combat radicalisation. MBS, in turn,  expressed readiness to share intelligence with India in order to tackle terrorism. Both leaders agreed for biennial summit meetings and formation of a Strategic Partnership Council.

Being the world’s third-largest oil consumer with a current demand of around 4.7 million barrels per day (bpd), it is no surprise that India is an investment priority for Saudi Aramco, as the chief executive of the Saudi oil giant, Amin Nasser, said in New Delhi. He added that Aramco is in talks with India’s biggest refining and petrochemicals company Reliance Industries for potential investments and is looking at other opportunities as well.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih, who together with Nasser is part of the delegation travelling with the Crown Prince, said he wants Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the Kingdom’s petrochemical company, to be household names in India.

Saudi Arabia will invest US$100 billion in India’s infrastructure and energy industry as it seeks to strengthen its position in the country that is registering the fastest growth in oil demand.

China’s visit was also marked by important trade agreements and the reassertion of the relations between Saudi Arabia and China.

salman, mbs, china, asia tour
The Crown Prince Arriving in China

After arriving there, on the fifth day of the Asia tour, Aramco representatives agreed to form a joint venture with Chinese defense conglomerate Norinco to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in the northeastern Chinese city of Panjin. The project is worth more than $10 billion. For this purpose, the partners would form a company called Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co.

During the visit in China Saudi Arabia signed also 35 economic cooperation agreements worth a total of $28 billion at a joint investment forum. According to the crown prince, the interactions between the two countries had always been friendly and over a period of hundreds, even thousands of years, his country had never experienced any problems with China.

The Chinese president Xi Jinping, in turn, said to the crown prince in front of reporters that “China is a good friend and partner to Saudi Arabia and the special nature of our bilateral relationship reflects the efforts you have made”. According to him, trade between the countries increased by 32 percent last year

“The Silk Road initiative and China’s strategic orientation are very much in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Asia Tour is a successful step towards solidifying the country’s positions in the region and expanding its investment portfolio. The fruitful results of the crown prince bin Salman’s efforts to strengthen not only economic, but also political ties with Pakistan, India and China are to be witnessed in the near future.

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