Saudi FM to visit Pakistan for bilateral economic cooperation

Pakistan hoping to attract billions of dollars in investment from kingdom

Kamran Yousaf April 14, 2024
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 12, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS


A high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia, led by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on April 15 (today) for a two-day visit.

The visit aims to fast-track the implementation of agreements made between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during their recent meeting in Makkah.

The discussions will focus on strengthening bilateral economic cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The delegation comprises key officials including Saudi Minister of Water and Agriculture Eng Abdul Rahman Abdul Mohsen Al-Fadley, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Ibrahim AlKhorayef, Deputy Minister of Investment Badr AlBadr, Head of Saudi Special Committee Mohammad Mazyed Al Towaijri, and senior officials from the Ministry of Energy and Saudi Fund for General Investments.

During its stay, the Saudi delegation is expected to engage in meetings with the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister, and relevant ministers, as well as the chief of army staff and the apex committee of SIFC.

The visit is anticipated to provide a significant boost to bilateral cooperation and foster a mutually beneficial economic partnership between the two nations.

Earlier, people familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that the top Saudi diplomat will be accompanied by key ministers from the kingdom, including energy and investment.

The visit is a follow-up of PM Shehbaz's recent trip to Saudi Arabia where he held wide-ranging talks with the Saudi crown prince. The primary objective of his visit was to persuade the Saudi government to help Pakistan revitalise its economy through investments.

In the wake of the meeting between the prime minister and the de facto Saudi ruler, both parties reached an agreement to accelerate the process of a $5 billion investment, previously discussed between the two nations.

Sources close to the matter revealed that the Saudi crown prince informed PM Shehbaz about sending a high-level delegation to Islamabad shortly to finalise the details of the investment.

Read Saudis may invest $1b in Reko Diq

Pakistan is hoping to attract billions of dollars in investment from Saudi Arabia as part of its initiative under the banner of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military forum aimed at removing bottlenecks and other bureaucratic hurdles hindering foreign investment.

Islamabad is offering Saudi investors stakes in the multi-billion-dollar Reko Diq mine projects. Similarly, the SIFC is keen for Saudis to invest in the agricultural sector.

Sources have indicated that the Saudi foreign minister and other delegation members will receive detailed presentations about the potential areas of investment.

Pakistan is eager for investments to commence sooner rather than later, as it will not only enhance foreign reserves but also stimulate economic growth.

Pakistan requires an injection of billions of dollars if it wants to meet its external liabilities and avoid repeatedly turning to international financial institutions for bailouts.

The SIFC was established to tackle the country's economic challenges through foreign investment. Pakistan aims to attract $70 billion in investment from Gulf countries over the next 3 to 5 years.

Observers, however, remain sceptical, stating that much depends on political stability and the tangible projects offered to investors.

One factor that may potentially undermine Pakistan's plans is the growing uncertainty in the region. The recent Iranian retaliatory strikes on Israel could alter the dynamics.

Meanwhile, despite escalating tensions in the region, sources indicate that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's visit is proceeding as planned.

The visit was in doubt following Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel in retaliation for the bombing of its diplomatic mission in Damascus a fortnight ago.

However, diplomatic sources said there was no change in the schedule of the Iranian president's visit to Pakistan. The Iranian president is expected to travel to Pakistan on April 22.

Sources, however, pointed out the schedule might change if tensions further escalate in the Middle East.

This would be the first visit of any head of state to Pakistan since the new government took charge. The visit also comes three months after Iran and Pakistan exchanged missiles. Iran first launched missiles inside Pakistan targeting what it claimed were terrorist hideouts. Two days later Pakistan retaliated with its own strikes.

But tension quickly de-escalated after the two sides established high-level contacts. The Iranian foreign minister dashed to Islamabad within days of missile exchanges and both sides agreed to defuse tensions.

It was agreed during the visit that the Iranian president would visit Pakistan after the February 8 elections.

In view of the current Middle East tensions, the likely visit of the Iranian president would be closely watched by the outside world.


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