Prince Salman arrives in Asia seeking deals


The prince, who will be accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, is expected to sign investment agreements worth billions of dollars with cash-strapped Islamabad.

Seven agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were inked as Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his diplomatic trip to Asia in Islamabad, with Pakistan hoping the deals will provide welcome relief to its teetering economy.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki and Pakistan's Ambassador in Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz were also present among other officials.

"Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been indispensable partners for a very long time".

The Saudi ministers accompanying the crown prince will meet their Pakistani counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation in their respective fields.

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He was initially due to reach Pakistan on Saturday but his arrival was delayed by a day leading to unease in the government circles in Islamabad with fear that the Saudi prince might call off the trip due to security reasons following Pulwama attack.

Authorities heightened measures across the capital Islamabad with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying he was personally taking care of the arrangements'.

During his visit, Muhammad bin Salman will also meet Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

While Pakistan's powerful military has always been a reliable ally of Saudi Arabia, Islamabad is wary about being drawn into the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Major roads in Islamabad were blocked off for Prince Mohammed's arrival with more than 1,000 police checkpoints set up.

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"We believe in Pakistan's future, we believe Pakistan has a huge opportunity", Prince Mohammed said on Monday.

The Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which is now part of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council, shall facilitate bilateral trade in specific sectors and products.

The Sun said Bin Salman's interest in United is driven by a desire to challenge Premier League rival Manchester City, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi's royal family.

"India and Saudi Arabia have historically enjoyed close and friendly relations anchored in mutually beneficial partnership and extensive people to people contacts".

Pakistan's Foreign Office and Saudi Arabia's government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Prime Minister Khan has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer.