Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will start his tour of South Asia and China today in Pakistan. He arrived in Islamabad on Sunday and was greeted at the airport by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, and given a welcome befitting a foreign leader. Shortly after Salman’s arrival, Pakistani and Saudi officials signed a number of investment deals that will total more than $20 billion. Pakistan’s economy has been in need of rejuvenation, which is a prime reason why Salman’s visit is seen as so significant.
His arrival in Pakistan comes amid heightened tensions on the subcontinent. On 14 February, a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the Kashmir region. India believes Pakistan had a role in the attack and has promised to punish Islamabad. Thursday’s attack was the deadliest to take place in Kashmir in decades. India has vowed to isolate Pakistan in the diplomatic world, and affect its economy negatively.
The Pakistani government denies any involvement in the attack. This morning, shortly after Salman’s arrival in Pakistan, a suicide attack on a Pakistani army convoy on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route between Turbat and Pangur killed 9 and wounded 11. Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
As if this were not enough, Iran is pushing Pakistan to take sterner measures against the Jaish al-Adl terrorist organization following a suicide attack in Iran on Wednesday that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers. Jaish al-Adl is based in Pakistan. Iran has lodged a formal protest with the Pakistani government, and behind the scenes has issued a warning that if Pakistan cannot contain and punish Jaish al-Adl, Iran will be forced to.
All of these incidents, as well as Pakistan’s economic difficulties, and rising tensions with India are adding more scrutiny to Salman’s tour. The Saudis intended for the visits to be an effort to rebuild the reputation of not only Salman, but Saudi Arabia is a whole. The problems on the subcontinent could provide Riyadh with geopolitical, and economic opportunities, as well as good publicity provided Salman plays his cards right.