In this photo released by the Press Information Department, Pakistani President Arif Alvi, right, meets with visiting Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at presidential palace in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Image Credit: AP

A new era of economic cooperation has begun with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s official visit to Pakistan. That was evident in Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a whopping $20 billion (Dh73.4 billion) investment to help Pakistan tide over its economic problems. As an investment in Pakistan, this is a first for Saudi Arabia which always preferred to provide handouts in the past. The credit for that change goes to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who unlike his predecessors, sought investment instead of charity. The Saudi investment is not a charity as it will benefit both the countries. The investment will set the pace for Pakistan’s growth and enable it to shed the burden of massive foreign loans, fiscal deficit and circular debt payments that keep the country on the edge of bankruptcy, besides hampering development projects.

Prince Mohammad was optimistic about Pakistan’s economic future, saying that the kingdom has been waiting for a leader like Imran to forge a partnership. Calling Pakistan a beloved country to all Saudis, he said the two nations have always walked together in tough times and good times. The crown prince was confident that Pakistan would become a very important country soon and the Saudis “want to be sure we are part of that”. And the investment is ample evidence that Riyadh is keen on contributing to Pakistan’s growth. The investment will be mainly in minerals, tourism, petrochemicals, agriculture, food processing and other key sectors.

Saudi Arabia has always been quick to come to Pakistan’s aid. The kingdom had recently announced a $6 billion bailout package that included $3 billion deposits for supporting the balance of payments and another $3 billion in deferred payments on oil imports. The two countries are also working on developing a road map that would help in counter-terrorism, economy, people-to-people contacts, culture and tourism. The bilateral ties also received a significant boost with the launch of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council. Chaired by Imran and Prince Mohammad, the council is a high-level institutional mechanism to fast-track decisions in critical aspects of cooperation, and to monitor its implementation in three key areas: political and security, economic, social and culture.

Now it is up to Pakistan to repay the trust by ensuring the success of Saudi ventures. It also has the onus to ensure the continuity of investment projects even when there is a change in government. And that would prompt other countries also to invest in Pakistan.