Saudi crown prince signs $20 bn deal with cash-strapped Pak

Wednesday 20th February 2019 05:19 EST

Islamabad: Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a raft of investment deals worth $20 billion with cash-strapped Pakistan during his visit to the country. Pakistan is facing a serious balance of payments crisis and hopes the deals - seven separate agreements and MoUs will provide welcome relief to its teetering economy. The crown prince, widely known as "MBS", has undertaken three-country visit five months after he came under intense pressure following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He got a warm welcome in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked long-time ally Saudi Arabia for its support, adding: "Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are now taking this relationship to a level which (they) never had before." Khan has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer. Earlier on Sunday, MBS was greeted with a booming 21-gun salute and was warmly embraced by Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on his arrival.

The two-day visit to Pakistan comes amid high tensions in the region: India and Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran - both bordering Pakistan - have accused Islamabad of backing terror groups which have carried out bloody suicide attacks on their soil in recent days. India has also accused Pakistan of orchestrating the Pulwama attack. After his two-day visit MBS returned to Saudi Arabi from there he travelled to India on Tuesday. The crown prince during his visit will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China..

The Asia trip comes after the murder of Khashoggi, a fierce critic of MBS, ignited a diplomatic crisis. Riyadh initially denied the murder, then gave several conflicting accounts of Khashoggi's death, and now claims he was killed in an unauthorised operation.

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