Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman heads to Pakistan on Asian diplomatic offensive

Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman heads to Pakistan on Asian diplomatic offensiveSaudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman flew to Pakistan at the start of a three nation diplomatic tour designed to repair the kingdom's reputation and bolster ties with key regional allies. The crown prince's visit could be overshadowed by dangerously spiraling tensions between Pakistan and India. The trip comes days after a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the disputed Kashmir region.  New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in Thursday's attack and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement. Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia, accused Pakistan of harbouring and training militants behind a suicide bombing in Baluchistan that killed 27 troops on Wednesday.  Crown prince Mohammed is expected to travel to Dehli to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday. He will spend Thursday and Friday in China.  The three nation tour has been characterized as part of a Saudi "pivot to the east" and is in part meant to repair the crown prince's reputation following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ensuing state-led cover-up. Despite his vow to shift Saudi Arabia to renewable energy, the trip is also in part a roadshow to sell Saudi oil. China is the world’s largest buyer of Saudi crude, and India is close behind. As the guardians of the most holy site in Islam, the Saudi royal family carry great clout in Pakistan. The visit also deepens a long standing alliance that has seen Saudi Arabia propping up Pakistan's fragile economy.  Pakistani officials have said that Saudi Arabia will announce eight investment agreements during the visit, including a $ 10 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port. Saudi Arabia has in recent months helped keep Pakistan's economy afloat by propping up its rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves with a $ 6 billion loan, giving Islamabad breathing room as it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.



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