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News > World

MBS Continues PR Tour, Visits India After Lavish Greeting in Pakistan

  • President Arif Alvi presents Pakistan's highest civil award Nishan-e-Pakistan to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the President House in Islamabad.

    President Arif Alvi presents Pakistan's highest civil award Nishan-e-Pakistan to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the President House in Islamabad. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 February 2019

MBS’s tour comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries over a car-bomb attack that killed at least 40 paramilitary personnel in Kashmir last week.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) arrived in India Tuesday for a two-day visit following a tour stop in neighboring Pakistan where he pledged a US$20 billion investment to Pakistan. More investment deals are expected to follow.

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Prince Mohammed arrived in Pakistan Sunday at the beginning of an Asian tour, which includes China. It is widely viewed as an attempt to rebuild his reputation after the murder of Saudi critic and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

At a ceremony in Pakistan Monday, officials signed memoranda of understanding in energy, minerals and agriculture valued at about $20 billion. President Arif Alvi also bestowed to the prince Pakistan's highest award, the "Nishan-e-Pakistan", while the head of the Senate presented him with a gift of a gold-plated submachine gun.

"The MOUs reflected the enhanced relationship but what I feel is that this is just a beginning," Prime Minister Imran Khan told his guest.

The lavish welcome for the Saudi Crown Prince in Islamabad made clear Pakistan's dependence on foreign investments to prop up a stumbling economy and plug its depleted reserves. Saudi Arabia is also in need of allies, after prompting global outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year at its consulate in Istanbul. However, officials said the accords were economically significant. Riyadh has continued to deny that the prince was involved in Khashoggi's killing, which has strained ties with Western powers.

"This is not charity, this is an investment. There is benefit for both sides," Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said.

Prince Mohammed's visit coincides with ramped up tensions between Pakistan and India following last week's suicide attack in Kashmir, claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Mohammad, which killed 44 Indian police.

Saudi Arabia has long been a source of financial aid for India's nuclear-armed rival, Pakistan, while maintaining significance to India as one of the country’s top trading partners.

India's foreign ministry said, "Trade and investment, defense and security, including counterterrorism, and renewable energy," will be discussed during a meeting between the crown prince and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday.

In the past 20 years, India's ties to Saudi Arabia have grown significantly, as the kingdom is India's fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth US$28 billion, and home to over 2.7 million Indian expatriates. Riyadh is also the number one source of India's energy supplies, supplying 20 percent of its crude oil.

"India, as a massive consumer of oil, and Saudi Arabia, as a major producer is an obvious synergy," Manoj Joshi, at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

The Saudi prince arrives in Beijing, China later this week for the third leg of his tour in Asia.


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