Pak, Saudi hold business conference to boost economic ties
Islamabad, Feb 18 : Pakistan and Saudi Arabia Monday held a joint business conference to strengthen bilateral economic ties, a day after they signed seven agreements worth USD 20 billion to promote trade and investment in the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia's defence minister, arrived on his maiden trip to Pakistan on Sunday.
He will arrive in India on February 19 on his first official visit. Counterterrorism and energy security are expected to top the agenda for discussions during the two-day trip.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday signed a slew of investment agreements worth USD 20 billion which will provide a welcome relief to the teetering economy of the cash-strapped Pakistan.
Foreign Office said the signed MoUs and agreements cover areas such as standard specifications, mineral resources, investment in refining and petrochemical sectors, power generation, development of renewable energy projects, and cooperation in the field of youth and sports.
"These agreements will lay the foundation for enhanced economic cooperation between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," according to Pakistan Foreign Office.
Though no figure of the volume of investment was given in the documents signed, Crown Prince Salman while addressing the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council said his country was initially investing about USD 20 billion in Pakistan.
"Today we signed MoUs. The amount of that kind of investment is USD 20 billion. It is big for phase one and definitely it will grow every month every year in bigger numbers and it will be beneficial for both countries," he said.
He also said Pakistan was an important country and his country was keen to build future ties with it.
"We believe Pakistan is going to be very very important country in the future and we want to be sure we are part of that," he said.
Speaking on the same occasion, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said the future of the bilateral cooperation was very exciting.
"The future is exciting for both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia after joining hands," he said.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood while addressing the Pak-Saudi Business Conference in Islamabad said a new chapter began in bilateral relations of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi investment in Pakistan is highly significant for positive trajectory of Pakistan's growth and economy...Saudi Arabia is a partner of Pakistan in its journey of prosperity," he said.
Dawood said investment in mining and mineral development from Saudi investors will be highly appreciated.
"Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is escalating in a different direction and at a different level. The Saudi announcement of huge investment in various sectors of Pakistan will improve our economy," he said.
Saudi Minster for Commerce Majid Al-Qassabi said the Crown Prince wanted to turn the relations with Pakistan into a strategic partnership.
"Our bilateral trade volume stands at 3.7 billion dollars but we need to improve it. We need to market things rightly and attract investors from both sides," he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan Monday tweeted that the Crown Prince won the hearts of the people of Pakistan.
"When he said 'consider me Pakistan's ambassador to Saudi Arabia' in response to my (Khan) asking him to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis working in KSA as his own," he said.
Khan had urged the Crown Prince to look into the problems of 3,000 Pakistanis held in Saudi prisons and allow completion of immigration process of Pakistani pilgrims in Pakistan.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry announced on Twitter that the Crown Prince in response to the request about jailed Pakistanis said his country will release more than 2,017 prisoners.
"As a sequel to Prime Minister of Pakistan's request, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Jails," Chaudhry said.
The Saudi embassy had already announced a massive reduction in the visa fees for Pakistanis ahead of the start of Crown Prince's visit.