Saudi-Pakistan bond stronger than ever, says ambassador

Raja Ali Ejaz, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia (AN photo)
Updated 17 February 2019

Saudi-Pakistan bond stronger than ever, says ambassador

  • At least 2.7 million Pakistani expats live in Saudi Arabia, 1.6 million of whom moved there to work between 2011 and 2015
  • The total volume of trade between the two countries is currently worth about $3.4 billion

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday to begin his official visit to a country that is widely considered to be “Saudi Arabia’s closest Muslim ally.”

Given this close relationship, it is little surprise that Raja Ali Ejaz, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, considers it such a privilege and honor to be the envoy to a country he considers a “second home” for Pakistanis.

“Saudi Arabia is an important country for Pakistan,” he told Arab News. 

“The Kingdom hosts one of the largest expatriate communities of Pakistanis. Under the present leadership in both countries, the role of the Pakistan Embassy has become more challenging and more significant.”

According to the Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at least 2.7 million Pakistani expats live in Saudi Arabia, 1.6 million of whom moved there to work between 2011 and 2015.

The ambassador was keen to highlight the strong relationship between the countries, and the ways in which the crown prince’s visit will further strengthen the bonds. The nations have long enjoyed a close, mutually beneficial relationship and Pakistan has benefited from Saudi resources in many ways, not least because the Kingdom is the country’s biggest supplier of oil. 

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always stood by each other in times of need,” he said. 

“The leadership of the two countries has a vision of taking the relationship to new levels in the days ahead, and the bilateral visits by the highest leadership are the manifestations of this.

“The upcoming visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be historic and elevate relations to an unprecedented height. The government and people of Pakistan appreciate (his) visionary policies, which will lead to the prosperity and development of Saudi Arabia and stability in the region.”

The total volume of trade between the two countries is currently worth about $3.4 billion. Pakistani exports to Saudi Arabia include food and textiles.

“We are looking forward to enhanced cooperation between two brotherly countries in areas including culture and media, energy, trade and investment, mining and tourism and so on,” said Ejaz. 

“These agreements will create enormous opportunities for both sides, as well as for people-to-people contact.”

The ambassador also suggested that cultural exchanges could become increasingly important, creating eye-opening experiences for citizens of both countries.

“The people of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were united in an everlasting bond of faith and culture even before the creation of the two countries,” he said. “This spiritual bond has gradually transformed into a strategic political alliance.

“The people of Pakistan consider Saudi Arabia their second home and a visit to the Two Holy Mosques is the lifelong desire of every Pakistani. On the other hand, Pakistan is blessed with regions of historical heritage, unmatched natural scenery and excellent climate.”

Obtaining a visa to visit Pakistan is a difficult task; the application process is one of the lengthiest of its kind. Ejaz said, however, that steps were being taken to make the process easier and more accessible for Saudi citizens.

“Pakistan is working to simplify the visa process and improve infrastructure to facilitate tourists,” he said. “Hopefully these steps will attract more tourists from the Kingdom. In addition, both governments under different frameworks, particularly Vision 2030, are actively working on increasing cultural exchanges.”

The ambassador also had encouraging words for Saudi investors interested in the potential offered by Pakistan.

“Pakistan would like to diversify and see its economic relations expanding,” he said. “One of the important factors in improving economic relations is bilateral investment. Pakistan needs a refinery, gas pipelines and fuel storage, and I feel Saudi Arabia can invest profitably. Other areas of investment could be the agriculture and mining sectors, especially copper and gypsum.

“Pakistan has an investment-friendly legal framework in place. We are also endowed with enterprising human resources, particularly in services and the IT sector, which can be utilized in development projects in the Kingdom under Vision 2030.”


Adrian Grenier: Having an appetite is the key to balance

Updated 46 min 4 sec ago

Adrian Grenier: Having an appetite is the key to balance

  • ‘Find ways that you can participate and then share those ways with your community’

RIYADH: Youmna Naufal, executive director of the Lebanese Student Society, asked Adrian Grenier, actor, filmmaker, social advocate and musician, about how he balances a rich portfolio of mixed roles and projects.

“I have a big appetite,” Grenier said at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday. “I have big eyes for the world. I get excited about a lot of different things ... I want to be diversified.”

Grenier talked about how technology is making the world smaller and more connected.

He thinks that it is important to have a depth of knowledge of a particular skill and go very deep on particular things, but at the same time to have casual knowledge about a lot of different things.

“Travel is more easily available to people and you want to be able to have a working knowledge of a lot of different aspects so that you can comment and you can participate meaningfully with all the people you’re going to encounter,” he said.

Grenier has had a hand in many different projects, from working for the environment, being the first social advocate for Dell computers to protecting the ocean. He said that people could do many different things and touch many different lives. “You have to, it’s almost a necessity at this point,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Grenier has had a hand in many different projects, from working for the environment, being the first social advocate for Dell computers to protecting the ocean.
  • One part of his career involved setting up the Lonely Whale Foundation to educate and raise awareness to inspire change.
  • At Lonely Whale his target is to eliminate 20 billion plastic straws from the waste stream.
  • Grenier also introduced the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, which this year drew 300 young people between the ages of eight and 18 from 30 countries around the world.

One part of his career involved setting up the Lonely Whale Foundation to educate and raise awareness to inspire change, because “today’s children are tomorrow’s environmental leaders.”

Grenier believes that a lot of things can be done to make that change — people need as many solutions as there are humans — “we need 8 billion solutions, and then all the different solutions that each individual comes to.”

He said that everybody knows what is needed in their local community, and what is needed individually and personally. Therefore, it is important that people bring their own creativity to the issue. “Find ways that you can participate and then share those ways with your community. I have a lot of things that I personally do. One thing is starting to reduce plastic straws on all different fronts.”

At Lonely Whale his target is to eliminate 20 billion plastic straws from the waste stream.

Grenier said that 10 billion tons of plastic is going into the ocean every year, which is a huge problem to tackle.

Lonely Whale decided to break the problem down to one single unit of measure, he said. “One single piece of plastic and the plastic straw became that symbolic unit … we could start to actually see a difference.”

He said that this was not easy as 500 million plastic straws are used every day.

Grenier also introduced the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, which this year drew 300 young people between the ages of eight and 18 from 30 countries around the world.

“We bring them together in a bootcamp-style experience over three days so that they can learn about plastics, the ocean, and how they can go back to their communities and start implementing change locally.”

Grenier gave a few pieces of advice throughout the session — especially to millennials. One was that they should take care of themselves, “so that you can stay committed to the task at hand and really accomplish your goals. It can’t be something that you do and then give up … So, take care of your health, take care of your body, your mind, and workout.”

He also advised people to collaborate. “Collaboration is a big part of what I do. I like to consider myself a master collaborator ... looking outside of your own self ... and being compassionate for other ideas.”

“Through new ideas you learn and synthesize both those perspectives into new perspectives. So, let’s do it together,” he said.