Pakistan will be very important country in future: Saudi Crown Prince

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Mohammed bin Salman. (File Photo: IANS)

Islamabad  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday affirmed his country’s strong ties with Pakistan, saying it will be a very important country in the coming future, as Islamabad rolled out the red carpet for the royal and honoured him with its highest civilian honour.

As the Crown Prince left Islamabad for New Delhi amid rising tensions between them over the Kashmir suicide bombing that killed 49 CRPF troopers, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, travelling with the royal, said his country would try to de-escalate tensions between the two South Asian neighbours and see how their differences could be eased.

“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighbouring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” the Minister was quoted as saying by Efe news.

Earlier in the day, President Arif Alvi awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan to Mohammad Bin Salman, also known as MBS, acknowledging his “outstanding support” for revitalizing relations between Riyadh and Islamabad.

The ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace and was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa among others.

The Crown Prince, here on a two-day that started on Sunday, called Pakistan a “dear country” to all Saudis and said the two countries had “walked together in tough and good times”.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure we are part of that. Pakistan today has a great future in store with a great leadership,” he said at a dinner hosted at the Prime Minister’s House on Sunday.

The Crown Prince said his country will collaborate with Pakistan economically, politically and in security matters. “We believe in our region, that is why we are investing in it.

“This is my first trip (to the) east since I became the Crown Prince (in 2017) and the first country (that I have visited) is Pakistan,” he added.

Bin Salman also ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners languishing in the kingdom’s prisons after the issue was raised by Khan.

Giving details, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeted on Monday: “Cases of the remaining (Pakistani prisoners) will be reviewed. People of Pakistan thank His Royal Highness for responding immediately to (our) request.”

Prime Minister Khan also urged the Crown Prince to look into the hardships of the Pakistani labourers working in the kingdom.

“Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman won the hearts of the people of Pakistan when he said ‘Consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia’ in response to my asking him to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia as his own,” Khan tweeted.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on Sunday signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) for bilateral cooperation worth $20 billion. The deals included exploration of investment opportunities in refining and petrochemical sectors; cooperation in sports; financing agreement for import of Saudi goods; power generation projects; and development of renewable energy projects.

Also on Sunday, Khan and Bin Salman held a one-on-one meeting which was followed by the inaugural session of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council.

The Saudi royal’s visit was initially scheduled for February 16 but was delayed by a day for unknown reasons.

The Crown Prince will meet in New Delhi Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Monday took a hard line over the Pulwama suicide bombing. The royal will then fly to Beijing before returning home.