Saudi Arabia, the new entrant to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has inked grant agreements with Pakistan to finance three road infrastructure and energy projects under the USD 50 billion CPEC, according to media reports.
The two sides also signed three agreements worth USD 16.1 million for financing projects in health and education sectors in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The agreements were signed by the Saudi envoy and the officials of Pakistan’s finance ministry on Thursday when Chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development, Ahmad Agil Al-Khateeb, visited Pakistan with a six-member delegation.
The aide to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made an unscheduled stopover in Islamabad on Thursday, raising prospects of a multi-billion-dollar Saudi Arabian bailout package for cash-starved Pakistan, according to media reports.
Saudi Arabia gave a grant of USD 10 million for furnishing the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz campus of a university in PoK, the Express Tribune reported.
“These agreements have been inked in line with the understanding reached during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference on Thursday.
On the signing of the grants agreements to finance road infrastructure and energy projects under the CPEC, the minister said, “The first step has been taken as three grant agreements have been signed. This is a very positive step and bodes well for relations between the two countries.”
The CPEC is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it traverses through PoK.
Saudi Arabia is the third “strategic partner” of the CPEC, a senior Pakistani minister said recently soon after Prime Minister Khan returned from his first foreign trip to the cash-rich kingdom.
Since the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the Opposition has been asking the government to unveil the pledges made by Riyadh regarding mega investment and monetary assistance to Pakistan.
Chaudhry said that a high-level Saudi delegation would arrive in Pakistan on Sunday and more agreements would be inked.
Finance Minister Asad Umar held a meeting with a Saudi delegation led by Al-Khateeb, raising prospects of a Saudi Arabian bailout package for Pakistan.
Umar is learnt to have discussed with the delegation matters relating to strengthening bilateral economic ties between the two countries.
Although the government denied that Pakistan sought a bailout package, there are reports suggesting that the country requested a multi-billion-dollar assistance package in the shape of oil on deferred payments and cash to cope with growing external sector challenges.