ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday at the start of his tour of South Asia and China, but the visit threatens to be overshadowed by escalating tensions between his nuclear-armed rival India and Pakistan.
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a closing ceremony for the 95th Kadets of the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court / Handout via REUTERS
The trip takes place a few days after a suicide bomber in the disputed Kashmir region 44 Indian paramilitary police. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad for denying its involvement.
Pakistan has sunk and needs friends. The Crown Prince is greeted with open arms for a visit that is expected to sign over $ 10 billion worth of investment deals.
Saudi Arabia has been helping to keep the Pakistani economy afloat in recent months by providing a $ 6 billion loan to its rapidly dwindling currency reserves. Islamabad has been given a breathing space when negotiating a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund.
According to analysts, the trip of the crown prince of Islamabad is treated as the largest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. Shortly after Beijing had announced investing tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure in Pakistan as part of China's global belt and China's street initiative.
The visit marks a deepening of relations between allies, whose relations in the past have been geared towards supporting oil rich Saudi Arabia's economy in difficult times, and in return the powerful army of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and his supported by royal family.
As the guardians of most holy sites in the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi royal family in Pakistan has great religious power, a conservative and predominantly Muslim nation of 208 million people.
"What is happening in this relationship is a renewal of the Pakistani commitment to protect the royal family and order in Saudi Arabia," said Mosharraf Zaidi, Senior Fellow at Tabadlab, a Pakistani think tank focused on global and International focuses on local public policy.
"On the other hand, there is the certainty that Saudi Arabia will not only continue to be a strategic friend who will support Pakistan's financial resources when needed, but will also participate in further investment in Pakistan. "
Pakistan is closing its airspace and increasing security in Islamabad for the Crown Prince, who will be the first guest at the Prime Minister's house. Pakistan's new populist Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to use the residence to save taxpayers' money.
Pakistan's hopes for further investment opportunities from Saudi Arabia were struck on Saturday when the government announced the "postponement" of the Pak-Saudi Business Conference.
The Pakistani authorities have already announced that Saudi Arabia will announce eight investment agreements, including a $ 10 billion refining and petrochemical plant in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port.
However, the arrival of the Crown Prince is due to India's vow to isolate Pakistan internationally for decades after the deadliest attack in Kashmir.
New Delhi calls for Islamabad action against the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which the state believes has the support of the Pakistani state for the bombing. Islamabad denies having played a role and called for an investigation.
Islamabad is expected to meet Crown Prince Khan and Pakistan's army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. He is also likely to meet representatives of the Afghan Taliban group to discuss peace negotiations to end the 17-year civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistani government sources say.
Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Cut by Nick Macfie