Saudi Arabia will be a partner in the development of an "oil city" in Gwadar. The 80,000-acre project will be used to transport oil from the Gulf region to China through the Gwadar Port. This will reduce transport time to just seven days, down from the current 40. Pakistan is expected to receive an economic package worth $8 billion from Saudi Arabia, which includes investment in Gwadar under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
It is pertinent to mention Pakistan is in an economic crisis, and any assistance from a friendly country can help bail out Pakistan. It will also open more avenues of cooperation and bring more investment into Pakistan. The deal was reportedly agreed during Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit to the Saudi Arabia, a country rich in oil and with experience developing oil cities. A smooth and successful development of the "oil city" in Gwadar is expected in the near future.
Saudi Arabia joining CPEC will further strengthen the Belt and Road Initiative and boost its early implementation as a leader in the Muslim world. There are 57 "Muslim countries" which constitutes around one-fourth of the membership in the United Nations. There are estimated 22 billion Muslims in the world. Around 60 percent of the world's energy reserves are in the greater Muslim world. Although the Muslim world is divided and facing many manmade challenges, it has the potential develop rapidly if united and provided with a fertile growth environment.
Saudi Arabia has shown interest in CPEC, primarily to relate its economy with China's and take steps to achieve its Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy and reduce oil dependency with energy mega-projects. Saudi Arabia will also be able to help China's crude oil supply. China is one of the largest oil consumers and highly dependent due to its trade and business activities. Therefore, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia both can benefit from exclusive trade routes under CPEC. From this perspective, it is a big victory for the BRI, and will lead many other Muslim countries to participate. Saudi Arabia was a close ally with the United States and one of the latter country's biggest trading partners, in arms as well as oil. But after the establishment of diplomacy with China, relations between the two countries have developed rapidly.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are two Muslim countries with a deep-rooted friendship based on common religion, history and interests. Both countries support each other on all fronts, and have stood with each other in difficult moments. History is witness to our relationship.
All three partners appear to be on the same page. This will help to further strengthen relations between China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It will also pave the way for other nations to join CPEC and enhance recognition of the BRI.
The author is a sinologist and non-resident fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan.
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