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Saudi crown prince on Asia tour

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Feb 18, 2019
Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Pakistan yesterday at the start of an Asian tour during which he will seek lucrative contracts and demonstrate he still has allies five months after the Jamal Khashoggi killing. Widely known by his initials, MBS, he was only expected to stay in Pakistan until today. His trip comes amid high tensions in the region: India and Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran - both bordering Pakistan - have accused Islamabad of backing militant groups that have carried out bloody suicide attacks on their soil in recent days. After Pakistan, bin Salman travels to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. The prince is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday. Two short stops initially scheduled for yesterday and today in Indonesia and Malaysia were postponed without explanation. The Asia trip comes five months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of MBS, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul ignited a diplomatic crisis. But for analysts, the Asia tour - the largest outing on the international scene for bin Salman since his participation in the G20 summit in Argentina in December - is a timely demonstration to the West that he still has friends in rising Asia. He "wants to demonstrate that he is not an international pariah," said James Dorsey, a researcher at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. The prince's trip also includes an important economic component. "China is the largest buyer of Saudi crude, and Saudi Arabia's other largest clients are all Asian: India, Japan, South Korea," Dorsey said.


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