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Cash-Strapped Pak Rolls Out Red Carpet For Saudi Crown Prince

Islamabad: 

Amid heightened security, cash-strapped Pakistan was on Sunday ready to receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose first trip to Islamabad was delayed by a day. Unease ran in the inner circle of the Pakistani government that the Saudi prince might call off the trip due to security reasons after build-up of tensions between Pakistan and India following the terror attack on CRPF soldiers Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, sources said.

There was relief among Pakistan officials when the Foreign Office announced on Friday night that the de-facto ruler of the Gulf kingdom will arrive on Sunday. No reason was given for the rescheduling of the planned arrival of the prince. However, the duration of two-day was not curtailed, nor the meetings and investment plans.

Saudi Arabia on Friday said it stood with India’s fight against terrorism and extremism and denounced as “cowardly” the attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

The crown prince, who is visiting Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, will be given a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at Mr Khan’s official residence after his arrival at Noor Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.

According to official media, the prince will be received by Mr Khan and members of his cabinet at the air base. He will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation, including members of the Saudi Royal family, key ministers and businessmen.

This will be his first official visit to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of crown prince in April 2017. During his visit, Muhammad bin Salman will also meet Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of agreements in several sectors. According to the advisor to Mr Khan on trade, Razzak Dawood, agreements worth between $10-15 billion will be signed, including one about Saudi investment to build an oil refinery. The refinery once ready will help to save about $1.25 billion in imports bills.

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

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