Holy Yatra & associated policies for Pakistan | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan

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Holy Yatra & associated policies for Pakistan

THE holy yatra of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have now proved effective and successful.

Due to his maiden visits to these brotherly countries, pouring of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) has now been started.

Now Pakistan badly needs inflow of FDIs and investments from these two countries will definitely be helpful to sustain economic stability in the country.

During his stay in Saudi Arabia the COAS General Munir met the highest leadership including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Pakistan in addition to a number of issues of common concern.

Right after the most recent visit of General Munir, Saudi Arabia announced to rescue Pakistan from the chronic balance of payment problem.

In this regard, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed authorities to consider increasing the cash deposit with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) as well as investment in the country.

According to the Saudi state official media, the Crown Prince directed the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) to study increasing the amount of the deposit provided by the Kingdom in favour of the Pakistani Central Bank which had previously been extended on 2 December 2022 to hit a $5 billion ceiling.

According to Saudi Press Agency (SPA) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has directed to study augmenting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s investment in Pakistan which have previously been announced on August 25, 2022 to reach $10 billion.

It seems that this financial move is part of the Kingdom’s effort to support the declining economy of Pakistan and its people.

Previously Saudi Arabia rolled over $3 billion last month and the provision of an additional $2 billion would shore up the country’s depleting foreign reserves which recently reduced to $4.5 billion enough to cover only three weeks of imports.

Separately, the Chief Executive Office of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), Sultan Abdulrahman Al Marshad and Ministry of Economic Affairs Secretary, Dr Kazim Niaz, signed an agreement to finance oil derivatives worth $1 billion to Pakistan.

According to a handout issued by the Finance Division, it “aimed at supporting Pakistan’s economy, sector growth, and navigating economic challenges.

It is indeed continuation of the support provided by the government of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to build a sustainable economy.

In this connection, “since the Fund’s establishment, the SFD has supported more than 40 projects and different programs in different development sectors valued approximately at $1.4bn to finance Pakistan’s energy, water, transportation, and infrastructure projects,” the statement said.

Interestingly, the army chief also embarked on his first trip to the UAE last week. During his visit to the UAE, he discussed bilateral ties with the UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The two leaders also discussed the regional situation and ways to increase bilateral cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

According to the statement, “the two sides reviewed cooperation relations and joint work between the UAE and Pakistan in defence and military affairs, as well as ways to strengthen them to serve the common interests of the two friendly countries”.

It is believed that Pakistan is also seeking the UAE’s help in averting the economic crisis. Islamabad has to repay $2 billion to the UAE in the coming weeks but the government is hoping the Gulf States would roll over that debt.

Subsequent to the visit of the Army Chief, Prime Minister Shebhaz Sharif visited the UAE. During the visit, the Prime Minister, the President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and emphasized for the further strengthening of economic, trade and investment ties between the two brotherly countries along with creating increased opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in the UAE.

The two leaders also exchanged views on a range of regional and global issues of mutual interest.

The premier Shehbaz also met with the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

He also scheduled to hold meetings with Emirati businessmen and investors to discuss ways to enhance bilateral trade and investment.

The UAE is home to around 1.7 million Pakistanis, who have been playing a pivotal role in the success story of the UAE for the last five decades, contributing to the progress, prosperity and economic development of the two brotherly countries.

The UAE agreed to roll over an existing loan of $2 billion and give an additional loan of $1bn to Pakistan, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement was issued after a meeting between the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Abu Dhabi.

The premier is on a two-day visit to strengthen economic, trade and investment ties with the country.

During the meeting the two leaders discussed the fraternal relations existing between Pakistan and the UAE; and explored ways and means to further strengthen these ties, especially in the fields of trade, investment and energy.

The two sides agreed to deepen investment cooperation, stimulate partnership and enable investment integration opportunities.

PM Shehbaz invited the UAE President to visit Pakistan, the PMO said, adding that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had agreed and the dates would be decided through diplomatic channels.

This is the premier’s third visit to the UAE since assuming office in April 2022. To conclude, the policy makers and military establishment of Pakistan should rigorously follow holistic and comprehensive economic diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to seek more and more inflows of the FDIs in the country.

In this regard, preferential areas may include, energy (oil, gas, solar, hydro and green projects), CPEC Phase-II especially in Gwadar Port, joint ventures in special economic zones, health, social development, defence manufacturing (tank, drone, missile, war fighter jet, etc), AI, agriculture and food security.

Moreover, sincere integrated diplomatic efforts should also be initiated to further enhance skilled workforce in these countries.

Joint ventures in IT, ICT, digital economy, industrialization and space sciences should also be included in the development of further bilateral relations.

Political consultations on important issues pertaining to regional peace, stability and harmony (Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Syria terrorism, climate change, human & drugs trafficking, greater regional connectivity, immense socio-economic integration, OIC, amicable resolution of Palestine and recognition of other sensitive matters) should be thoroughly discussed and tried to resolve as soon as possible.

—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer.