China has been taken into confidence over Saudi Arabia joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project as a strategic partner, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said on Friday.

The minister was responding to a tweet by former interior and planning minister, Ahsan Iqbal of PML-N, who asked whether Beijing had been taken on board before formally inviting Riyadh to join the mega venture.

"Has China been taken into confidence? CPEC is a bilateral project in which induction of any other country has to have [the] concurrence of both sides," Iqbal wrote.

In response, Chaudhry said Chinese assent had been sought and that the "expansion of CPEC is in China and Pakistan['s] interest."

"Pakistan will be a centre of economic activity of this region, era of darkness is over," he added.

The minister had announced on Thursday that Saudi Arabia is set to become a third strategic partner in CPEC and has reportedly agreed in principle to invest heavily in Pakistan after it was formally invited to join the project, Dawn reported.

The landmark announcement by Chaudhry came in the backdrop of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates apparently aimed at convincing Islamabad’s allies in the Middle East to help the government deal with a looming financial crisis.

“A high-level coordination committee has been constituted and it has the complete backing of the Saudi King, His Highness Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, as well as the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman] and PM Khan,” said the minister, who was part of the prime minister’s entourage during the trip, at a press conference in Islamabad.

A high-level Saudi delegation comprising ministers for finance and energy as well as business heads would visit Pakistan in the first week of October to work out details of a grand economic partnership, Chaudhry said, adding that major investments from Saudi Arabia were expected.

He said Saudi Arabia was the first major country to have been formally invited to become a partner in the CPEC. “Our strategic cooperation has been revitalised. We have assured the Saudi leadership that we will continue to provide security to their country and provide strategic support wherever needed,” he added.

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