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Crown prince's visit a 'manifestation of the strength' of Pak-Saudi ties: PM Khan

Updated February 17, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan during an exclusive interview with the Saudi Gazette. ─ Photo courtesy Saudi Gazette
Prime Minister Imran Khan during an exclusive interview with the Saudi Gazette. ─ Photo courtesy Saudi Gazette

Prime Minister Imran Khan in an exclusive interview with the Saudi Gazette on Saturday described Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's visit to Islamabad a "manifestation of the strength" of Pak-Saudi ties.

Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS, will arrive in Pakistan on a two-day visit this evening, accompanied by an entourage of royals, minsters and businessmen. The visit has garnered interest as much for the entourage and equipment accompanying the Saudi heir-apparent as for what will transpire during his stay ─ a number of multi-billion dollar agreements are to be signed by both countries in various fields.

MBS visit: Everything you need to know

Prime Minister Khan, when asked about the significance of the crown prince's visit, said that it would strengthen Riyadh's diplomatic support to Islamabad and reinforce relations between both countries, expand Pak-Saudi economic ties "by identifying new avenues of investment as well as joint ventures", and "further our mutual trust and strong historical relations".

He added that it would be an opportunity for MBS to interact with key Pakistani government officials and get to know the country and its government better.

"This visit will go a long way in laying a foundation of strategic and economic relations that has been the hallmark of our two brotherly countries," the premier continued. "The generous deposit of $3 billion and supply of oil on deferred payment is reflective of the desire of the kingdom to see a strong, vibrant and prosperous Pakistan."

The prime minister also pointed out that the two nations could "join hands to effectively mobilise the international community for amicable resolution of festering disputes, such as Kashmir and Palestine".

When asked what subjects would come under discussion during MBS' visit, Khan responded that all aspects of bilateral, regional and global issues ranging from bilateral cooperation in the economic, diplomatic and political arenas, to collaboration in regional peace and stability, especially of relevance to the Muslim Ummah, would be discussed.

He noted that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan held "similar stances" on regional and global security, adding that the visit would be an opportunity to discuss such issues.

Additionally, he said, the possibility of Saudi investment in various sectors (energy, petroleum, agriculture and infrastructural development), would be discussed.

Khan suggested that both countries could "also exert their energies and influence in facilitating peace process in Afghanistan", amid reports that MBS is likely to meet Afghan Taliban representatives during his visit.

The prime minister also suggested using the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as a platform to strengthen the Muslim Ummah and "close cooperation" between Muslim countries.

Saudi investment in Gwadar

While noting Saudi Arabia's production of oil and its experience in the energy market, the premier said Pakistan could benefit from this in their "quest for developing much-needed resources of energy".

"The investment in Gwadar alone would be the most important contributor towards making Pakistan self-reliant in this sector," he stated.

Read more: Saudi Arabia likely to make biggest investment in Pakistan

He added that Pakistan would want to develop an economic and cultural corridor with Saudi Arabia in an effort to further expand bilateral relations.

"Our relations with Saudi Arabia are not based on the exigencies of time but are time-tested," he said.

He said Pakistan hoped that the kingdom would invest in other sectors so as to bring the economic and trade relations between the two nations at par with their political relations, adding that the country was looking forward to "enhanced cooperation" in the banking sector, education sector, science and technology, trade and investment, construction sector and cultural cooperation — particularly in the field of films, cinemas and tourism.

The premier said Pakistan wanted to increase agricultural exports to Saudi Arabia as well as other regional countries.

When asked about Saudi Arabia becoming a member of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the premier said that it would "bolster CPEC as an engine of growth for the region".

Khan said that a Saudi oil refinery planned in Gwadar would help boost local production as well as the local energy market. He added that the exchange of skills and transfer of technology as well best practices would "enhance competition" and increase productivity levels of local refineries.

Further, the prime minister added that it would "complement" the projects under CPEC.

"This, of course, is just the beginning of our cooperation and we would like to build upon the successes of this project to further expand cooperation in other areas as well," he said.

[Read more:8 investment MoUs to be signed during Saudi crown prince's visit to Pakistan: Qureshi][5]

Prime Minister Khan said that they will ensure that the investments of Saudi investors don't face procedural delays adding that they would put an "investment-friendly environment" in place. He added that this has been indicated in the World Bank's 'Doing Business Index' where Pakistan had improved on its' score of previous years.

"Our priority is to make Pakistan easier for business and friendly for tourism, In this regard, the government is focusing on automation in each sector to reduce the cost, time and administrative procedures/bottlenecks to facilitate the investors," he explained.

He said that the government was also encouraging the relocation of industry from China and other countries through measures "aimed at restoring the confidence of local and foreign businessmen in Pakistan".

"We make no differentiation between local and foreign investors. Foreign investors can have full ownership as well as repatriate their capital or profit without any hindrance. All of this would help boost economic productivity and will make CPEC not just a corridor but also the engine of economic growth, prosperity, trade cooperation and investment," Khan told the Saudi Gazette.

'Won't be partner in any proxy war'

Khan, when asked how Pakistan is dealing with terrorism, asserted that it was a "big menace that has to be countered with an iron hand".

"We are determined not to become a partner in any proxy war anywhere in the world. Rather we will be a partner in peace. Islamabad believes that extremism in most parts of the world, which leads to terrorism, is brought about by many factors," Prime Minister Khan stated, adding: "Pakistan is against interference of regional powers in the internal affairs of any country."

The prime minister, highlighting the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition's (IMCTC) mission "to protect Muslim countries from growign security and terrorism threats", called for regional platforms like it to "work for the collective good of nations by countering evils of terrorism and instability that threatens the very social fabric of our societies."

He dismissed the notion "created by some" that the Islamic Military Alliance"is a coalition of vested interests against a particular country, region or sect", terming such concerns "a rustic mockery [...] far from any logic and reality".

"We hope this alliance will evolve into an alliance of all Muslim states to collectively fight the common menace of terrorism," he said.

In response to a question regarding the government's position if Saudi Arabia were to be attacked, prime minister said that "Pakistan rejects military solutions and believes that every conflict has a political solution and that conflicts could be resolved through peaceful means".

Khan added that the kingdom is "very close to our heart in every respect".

"We have always said if the Holy Cities of Islam are threatened, Pakistan would go all out to defend the Holy Cities," he said.

He went on to reiterate that "Pakistan's stated position that it will not allow anyone to attack Saudi Arabia".

"Pakistan will always stand with Saudi Arabia whenever it faces a threat in any form to its security and sovereignty. We want Saudi Arabia as safe and secure as we want Pakistan to be."