ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari will leave for Saudi Arabia Tuesday for holding wide ranging talks with Saudi leadership aimed at expanding trade and economic ties and seeking Saudi support in helping the country confront its financial challenges.
President Zardari’s visit to Saudi Arabia is taking place at a time when Pakistan is in the midst of a serious economic crisis. He will try to seek Saudi Arabia’a assistance for the deferred oil facility to help the country deal with the balance of payments crisis.
The President will visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from November 4, his first since assuming his office on September 9. He earlier accompanied Prime Minster Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani in June early this year.
The Saudi King and President Zardari would also exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues. President Zardari in his talks with the Saudi leadership will discuss ways to seek more investment from the Saudi entreprenuers in energy, infrastructure development, agriculture and industrial sectors.
A spokesman of the Foreign Office said the two leaders would also exchange views on challenges confronted by the Ummah, the inter-faith initiative taken by King Abdullah and his country’s efforts to curb terrorism and extremism.
President Zardari will seek Saudi Arabia’s assistance for recently formed ‘Friends of Pakistan group’ that includes its major donors; US, UK, China, France, UAE and Germany and is scheduled to meet in Abu Dhabi on November 17 to discuss matters related to its financial assistance.
The multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries are based in institutional linkages and strong trade and economic ties. A Saudi-Pak investment conference at Riyadh on Saturday sought setting up of a mutual investment fund and launch of an exclusive cargo airline to facilitate the business communities of the two countries to enhance trade. Saudi companies have also made significant investments in Pakistan in diverse fields, while over a million Pakistanis were serving in various capacities in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is amongst the top 20 major export destinations for goods from Pakistan and the Pak-Saudi annual bilateral trade is around US 5.7 billion dollars.
Major items of exports form Pakistan to Saudi Arabia includes, raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton cloth, readymade garments, knitwear (hosiery), made-ups, bed linen, towels, tents and canvas, art silk and synthetic textiles, leather garments, furniture, carpets and rugs, footwear, sports goods and surgical goods, Rice, Fish, fruits, vegetables, Spices, Biscuits, Jams, Juices etc.
On the other hand Pakistan’s major import is petroleum. The other items though minor in volume, includes petrochemicals, organic chemical products, plastic products, fertilizers, steel products, electrical equipment, raw skins, tanned leather, boilers and heavy equipment, copper products, aluminum products, chemicals, components, precious metals, steel castings, tractors, rubber products etc.
Both Islamabad and Riyadh enjoy close cooperation with frequent high level visits between the two countries. Successive Saudi leadership have visited Pakistan from time to time. King Saud visited Pakistan in 1954, King Faisal in 1966 and 1974 and King Khalid in 1976.
King Fahd visited Pakistan as Crown Prince in 1980 while King Abdullah was in Pakistan as Crown Prince in 1984, 1997, 1998 and 2003 and finally as King in 2006.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy a special relationship, rooted in common faith, mutual trust, understanding and an abiding interest in each other’s security, stability and well being of the people,” said a foreign office statement prior to the visit. The two countries have shared perceptions and convergence of views on major regional and international issues, the statement said. The President will also perform Umrah and Ziarat of Roza-e-Rasool.-APP