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Pulwama shadow on Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Pakistan visit

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 17-02-2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his two-day Pakistan visit on Sunday, but the trip is overshadowed by tensions between India and Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack.

The visit comes days after a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement. Prince Mohammed had also planned to visit Indonesia and Malaysia during the tour, but those trips have been postponed.

The tour is seen as an attempt by the crown prince to rebuild his reputation after the murder of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, analysts say. Many in the West blamed Prince Mohammed for the killing, which triggered the kingdom’s biggest political crisis for a generation. He has denied being involved.

In Pakistan, the prince will sign a number of agreements and meet the Pakistani leadership as well as a delegation of the Afghan Taliban.

Arabiya TV reported that the crow prince signed agreements worth $20 billion.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa were at the tarmac of the airport to receive the prince in Islamabad earlier on Sunday.

Soon after his arrival, the prince went into a huddle with Khan and Bajwa before being driven to the prime minister’s residence to attend an official reception.

Heavy security was deployed in Islamabad over the weekend with the elite Triple-one brigade of the Pakistan army and Saudi Royal Guards jointly performing security duties. Over 12,000 military and other law enforcement personnel have been deployed for the visit.

Complete coverage: Pulwama terror attack

Prime minister’s adviser on commerce Razak Dawood told media on Sunday that three MoUs for investment in oil, renewable energy and mineral sectors will be signed. “It is very likely that an agreement for $3 billion oil facility on deferred payments will also be signed,” said Dawood, adding Pakistan will also ask Saudi Arabia to take part in the privatisation of over $2 billion worth of two LNG-fired power plants.

In an interview Saudi media, prime minister Imran Khan said the visit would be an opportunity for the prince to interact with key Pakistani government officials and get to know the country and its government better. Khan suggested that both countries could “also exert their energies and influence in facilitating peace process in Afghanistan.”

ALSO WATCH: Several CRPF jawans martyred in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district (Times of India)

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