Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will embark on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia starting Monday to attend the ‘Davos in the Desert’ Summit, an initiative by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to expand the Kingdom’s role beyond oil in the economy global .
Hundreds of delegates from around the world, including government officials, business leaders and even CEOs of American companies, attend the two-day Future Investment Initiative Summit in Riyadh. The conference kicks off on Tuesday.
Official sources confirmed that Prime Minister Shehbaz is visiting Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Saudi Crown Prince. He will attend the two-day conference and is expected to meet with the Saudi leadership.
Davos in the desert takes place at a time when Saudi Arabia and the United States have clashed over Riyadh’s move to cut oil supplies despite President Biden’s request to the contrary. US officials were not invited to the investment summit, according to organizers. However, 400 CEOs of several American companies will be in attendance. A strong Chinese delegation will be in Riyadh to highlight Saudi Arabia’s drive to diversify its options and look beyond the West.
Pakistan sees the conference as an opportunity to draw the world’s attention to climate-induced flooding.
Shehbaz is visiting Saudi Arabia as the Saudi Crown Prince is also planning to visit Pakistan next month. Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman is expected to travel to Islamabad next month for a crucial visit that Pakistan hopes will lead to another financial bailout package from the oil-rich Arab nation.
Although officials are in awe and don’t share details of the visit, sources have confirmed this The Express Tribune that the two countries were in contact to prepare for the visit. The foreign ministry did not respond when asked to confirm the visit.
There are reports that the Saudi crown prince may make a stopover in India on his way to Indonesia in mid-November to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit is expected to last a few hours on November 14, and both leaders are expected to leave for Bali to attend the G-20 summit there on November 15-16, according to Indian media.
While MBS wishes to travel to Islamabad, there are concerns that the visit may be delayed or suspended if Imran Khan decides to launch the long-awaited long march against the government.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif invited the de facto Saudi ruler to visit Pakistan when he visited Saudi Arabia in July.
Read more: Pakistan sides with Saudi Arabia over its tension with the United States
The visit comes at a time when the ruling coalition led by Shehbaz is facing an imminent long march from former Prime Minister Imran Khan and when Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with the United States over the recent cut in oil supplies from the main exporting countries.
Pakistan, in a surprising and significant move, took a public position on the controversy between the United States and Saudi Arabia and supported Riyadh’s position.
“For me it was quite surprising and unprecedented when Pakistan took a public stance on an issue in which we have no direct role,” commented a policy expert who previously worked with the government to bring investment to the country. . He asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
But the pro-Saudi statement at this juncture could help Pakistan get much-needed financial support from Riyadh.
The United States has been furious at OPEC + ‘s move to cut oil supplies by 2 million barrels a day despite President Joe Biden’s request to the contrary.
Biden warned that Saudi Arabia will face the consequences of the decision and that his administration will revisit 80-year bilateral relations with the Arab country.
In this context, the visit of the Saudi crown prince would be closely followed. Sources said the government was keen to revive the multi-billion dollar investment plan Saudi Arabia agreed to make in Pakistan when MBS visited Islamabad in February 2019.
As part of the plan, Saudi Arabia was to set up an oil refinery in Gwadar with an investment of $ 10 billion. However, the project could not get off the ground for a number of reasons, including some political moves by former Prime Minister Imran Khan that angered the Saudi leadership.
But now Saudi Arabia is willing to relaunch the project. Meanwhile Pakistan is pushing for a tripartite agreement between Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China for the oil refinery. It is said that China would provide the necessary funding while Chinese companies would take care of the project.
Given also Pakistan’s precarious economic situation with dwindling foreign reserves, Islamabad is hoping for financial assistance from Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has already amassed over $ 3 billion that Pakistan was supposed to repay in December.