Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday announced that at least eight memoranda of understanding (MoUs) will be signed between Islamabad and Riyadh during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's upcoming two-day visit to Pakistan.
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, Qureshi said the Saudi royal did not wish to visit Pakistan just to hold discussions; so "homework" was done, and a Saudi team visited Pakistan in the last few days to assess the investment potential in various sectors of the country on the directives of the crown prince, he added.
He said after holding talks with Pakistani government officials, the Saudi "advance team" reported back to authorities in their country and based on those discussions, the government expects to sign "at least eight MoUs" with Saudi Arabia on investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports — the details of which will be revealed later.
It is difficult to quantify the investment these MoUs would bring, but it is believed that Saudis are considering investing up to $12 billion in near future. The biggest project to be undertaken is the setting up of a refinery and possibly a petrochemical complex in Gwadar.
The minister revealed that the "high-powered" delegation that will accompany Prince Mohammed will probably be the "biggest in the history" of the two countries' relations. It will include the prince's associates, ministers, advisers and CEOs of the large Saudi companies, he said.
He said it has been decided to devise a mechanism to implement the bilateral agreements to be signed during the visit. In this regard, a coordination council is being set up that will be jointly headed by the crown prince (representing Saudi Arabia) and Prime Minister Imran Khan (representing Pakistan).
All relevant ministries will have representation in the coordination council and they will follow up on the MoUs to ensure their practical implementation, the foreign minister revealed.
"I am immensely glad that you are seeing a qualitative change in our relationship [with Saudi Arabia] and will do in the future," he told reporters.
Qureshi said the government was grateful to Saudi Arabia for "fully supporting and helping Pakistan in this difficult time", and cited the multi-billion dollar balance-of-payments support and deferred payment facility for oil supplies provided by the Kingdom in this regard.
In response to a question about whether Pakistan had agreed to playing a larger role in the Yemen conflict in exchange for the Saudi support, the foreign minister said he was telling everyone "loud and clear" that there had been "no such commitment".
$7 billion investment
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood while addressing the news conference said the government was expecting $7 billion in Saudi investments in the next two years. The Kingdom has also shown interest in an investment of $2 billion in the renewable energy (wind and solar) sector in Sindh and Balochistan, he said.
The biggest investment from Saudi Arabia, however, will come for the proposed oil refinery in Gwadar, Dawood said, adding that its details will become clear after a feasibility study that could take over a year to complete.
According to the adviser, in the second phase, Riyadh wants to invest another $2 billion in the food and agriculture sector in Pakistan.
Meeting with Afghan president, US lawmakers in Germany
During the news conference, Qureshi announced that he will embark on a "very important" visit to Germany on Thursday where he will hold a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and the two will also co-chair a panel to present their respective countries' perspective on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the region.
Qureshi said he will also meet the Russian foreign minister, as part of Pakistan's policy to "keep regional stakeholders in the loop" and generate "regional ownership of the entire [Afghan] peace and reconciliation process".
Among other scheduled discussions will be Qureshi's meetings with the German, Uzbek and Canadian foreign ministers, and with a "very important" delegation comprising nine key members of the United States Senate and 10 members of the US House of Representatives.
The minister said his efforts to "reset" Pakistan's relationship with the US now seem to be progressing forward and the "unease" in the ties has now ended. The US special envoy for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, too has issued "very positive" statements regarding Pakistan recently, Qureshi added.