MAKKAH: PM Shehbaz Sharif pays his respects at the Holy Ka’aba as he performs Umrah.—PPI
MAKKAH: PM Shehbaz Sharif pays his respects at the Holy Ka’aba as he performs Umrah.—PPI

• Saudi, Pakistani premiers also discuss Gaza and Kashmir
• Tranche is part of $25bn pledged under SIFC
• Joint communique makes no mention of the area of investment
• Shehbaz wraps up his three-day tour to Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has committed to fast-tracking the initial tra­nche of $5 billion investment in Pakistan, while Islamabad has promised to facilitate the expedited process aimed at enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries.

This agreement was reached at a meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prime Mini­ster Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah on Sunday night.

PM Sharif was on a three-day visit to pursue economic support from the kingdom.

According to a joint communique issued simultaneously from Islamabad and Riyadh at the end of the meeting, the two leaders discussed ways for strengthening bilateral ties with special focus on “Kingdom’s supportive role in Pakistan’s economy and the mutual desire to strengthen trade and investment ties”.

“Both parties affirmed their commitment to expediting the first wave of investment package worth $5 billion, which was discussed previously,” the statement added.

It, however, did not mention the sector in which this investment would be made.

Last year Saudi Arabia had promised to invest $25 billion within next five years under the Spe­cial Investment Facilita­tion Council (SIFC) that is seeking investments in the energy, IT, minerals, defence, and agriculture sectors from the Arab countries.

It is expected that the $5bn investment would be made in the minerals sector especially the Reko Diq gold and copper mines as Saudi Arabia has already been studying the prospects of tapping into this sector, though the kingdom also has interest in petroleum, agriculture as well as IT sectors.

Barrick Gold Corp, which holds 50pc shares in Reko Diq mine had in August 2023 indicated that there was a possibility of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund entering the venture through Pakistan’s 25pc equity in the project.

PRIME Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Jeddah Governor Prince Saud bin Abdullah Al Jalawi at the airport before leaving for Pakistan.—APP
PRIME Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Jeddah Governor Prince Saud bin Abdullah Al Jalawi at the airport before leaving for Pakistan.—APP

Mr Sharif assured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Pakistan’s commitment to enhancing economic cooperation with the Saudi kingdom.

The two leaders also discussed the tense ties between India and Pakistan.

“The two sides stressed the importance of dialogue between Pakis­tan and India to resolve the outstanding issues bet­ween the two countries, especially the Jam­mu and Kashmir dispute to ensure peace and stability in the region,” the communique read.

Riyadh has been encou­raging Pakistan to explore avenues for normalisation with India. The Arab leaders, after the elections in India, may play a pivotal role in facilitating engagement bet­ween India and Pakistan, urging both to step back from conflict and military standoffs.

Saudi Arabia’s encouragement of peace between India and Pakistan aligns with its strategic, economic, and geopolitical in­­t­erests, aiming to enha­n­ce regional stability and sec­u­­­re a conducive environment for its Vision 2030 in­­­vestments in South Asia.

This effort also supports its counterterrorism objectives.

Discussing the Pales­t­ine issue, both Pakistan and Saudi premiers urged inte­rnational efforts to halt Israeli military operations in Gaza and mitigate hum­a­nitarian impact. They also called on Israel to cease hostilities, adhere to int­ernational law, and faci­litate unhindered hum­a­nitarian aid access to Gaza.

The two leaders highlighted the need for advancing the peace process in accordance with relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the General Assem­bly as well as the Arab Peace Initiative, aimed at finding a just and comprehensive solution, for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2024

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