Prime Minister Khan in the Driving Seat, Literally

Posted on Posted inPakistan

Years of fiscal brinkmanship being replaced by a new strategy that’s showing some silver linings in the cloud.

IRSHAD SALIM (PKONWEB Report, Islamabad) — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in the capital here on a one-day visit on Sunday.

The crown prince was accorded warm welcome by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Noor Khan Airbase.

The PM himself drove the guest to the Prime Minister House where he was given a 21-gun salute and guard of honor before the meeting between the two leaders kicked off.

“My close relationship with Pakistan started at a very young age, during my childhood. And I’m lucky today to be in Pakistan in my first official foreign visit during 2019. My sincere wishes for success and prosperity to the government and people of Pakistan,” Sheikh Mohamed said on Instagram.

Several observers and analysts say the Prime Minister welcoming the guest at the airbase and then driving him to the PM house highlighted the importance of the visit by a UAE leader after a decade-long hiatus.

The PM has already visited UAE twice as prime minister and the visit by the crown prince signals a re-warming of ties after a a gap of 12 years.

Earlier, Mr. Khan with his entourage paid visits to Saudi Arabia and China.

Last week, the Prime Minister traveled to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan where he highlighted the need to take up the relationship several notches up, to which Erdogan agreed.

Next month Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is expected to visit Islamabad amid reports the Kingdom is looking forward to making more than $15 billion in investment starting this year.

Mr. Khan’s visits to these regional countries indicate Prime minister’s close to the home countries’ foreign policy bilateral relations focus, and to protect and advance Pakistan’s own core economic, diplomatic and security interests.

That his new government has been able to rake in enough funds and credits/loans from Saudi Araabia, UAE, China and Qatar, to bridge the yawning fiscal gap bodes well and is of strategic importance in economic diplomacy that Pakistan has been badly needing for a decade.

The UAE guest expressed optimism about the new generation leading Pakistan. “They provide chances at building hope and establishing prosperous foreign relations over years to come.”

According to a senior defense analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity, “IK’s character resonates too strongly with young monarchs in the Gulf,” “I shared my observation with Saudi Ambassador in Islamabad and he was also of the same view”.

The economy that Mr Khan inherited has created a need for regional and international financial support.

Negotiations with the IMF and other potential sources are expected to plank rest of the peaks and valleys in the economic landscape which remains cloudy.

And where there are trade and investment opportunities, they are being pursued; where the possibility for mediation exists, it is being diplomatically advanced. Even opening wider doors for untapped opportunities has been attempted, as reflected in PM Khan’s visit in November to meet PM Mahathir of Malaysia where he found a new fan in Malaysian first lady.

The Abu Dhabi Prince and PM Khan are said to be close friends for years with the former having done his bit to help the latter with his social responsibility initiatives in Pakistan, for example the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. UAE’s Polio Campaign in Pakistan has been a huge success also.

On Monday, the KSE-100 Index gained 800 points in intra-day trading on back of assurances from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to help bring Pakistan out of financial crisis.

During the visit, the Prince matched Saudi Arabia’s financial package of $6 billion, as both the friendly counties offered $3 billion each in cash to stabilize Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and promised oil and gas supplies worth another $3 billion each on differed payments. That’s in addition to China’s silent, subtle $2 billion and deferred payment in the works for LNG from Qatar.

Meanwhile, Pak Rupee remains stable at around 140 to a Dollar, and a balance of payment default out of the window.

(The writer is a business consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad)

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