Pak-Saudi Relations By Muhammad Asif Noor

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud was in Islamabad for his maiden visit to Pakistan after assuming office in October. The visit of the Saudi Foreign Minister has also come at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan made a quick visit to the Kingdom to meet the Saudi leadership including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for the consultation on bilateral matters and developments in the regional context especially in the backdrop of Summit of Muslim leaders in Malaysia. Although such high level visits are a regular practice between both countries but recent changes in the dimensions of Muslim world where conflicts fault lines between the countries are getting deeper and deeper with each passing day. Kuala Lumpur Summit was hosted by Prime Minister Dr. MahatirMohamad, wherein the Turkish President Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-thani and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani were present to witness the dialogue on the role of development and how to improve and achieve the national sovereignties with increasing global challenges. The summit was meant to provide solutions the problems afflicting the global Muslim communities especially marred with conflicts and backwardness where the summit provided some practical steps towards these problems. Pakistan however skipped this Summit and Prime Minister Imran Khan after Saudi Arabia went to later went to Kingdom of Bahrain for another fruitful consultation over the building of relations between the states. In Bahrain Prime Minister Imran Khan was conferred with the Highest Civil Award by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and both states signed multiple MoUs in the fields of higher education, scientific research, sports and medical sciences. Committing on the Summit first and later to skip it altogether was criticized by various quarters and advised on the other hand to take a caution efforts and steps in the foreign policy matters especially when there are scores of issues that Pakistan need support from the countries. One of the key foreign policy challenges for Pakistan has remained how to balance and navigate its policy in the volatile Middle East and Gulf region. Through diplomatic adroitness and pragmatism of the leadership in Islamabad, Pakistan will be able to deal with all the challenges especially in finding the balance in its relations with the Muslim world. Pakistan should follow the historic path of its diplomatic traditions wherein we have been successfully remained neutral in the troubling political paradigm of the Muslim world especially.
What was desired from the countries on Kashmir was little less than what was expected as despite been making it a global issue, on Kashmir there is only diplomatic talk from the countries except few who have spoke about the atrocities of the Indian government in Kashmir
The year 2019 has remained a momentous year for both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as both states came out of their own challenging phases to build relations on number of issues especially after previous government took stand on not sending the troops to Yemen supporting Saudi forces. Change of the government in Islamabad made some head ways wherein Crown Prince Salman with a modern and forward looking new vision for the Kingdom found a young and dynamic partner in Imran Khan. Both heads also sought renewed commitment when Crown Prince arrived in Islamabad. During the visit the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan develop a chemistry and instant friendship. Crown Prince also in his state address called him “Pakistan’s Ambassador in Saudi Arabia” which was lauded by many in Pakistan and abroad. During this year alone several high level visits from both sides had been done amplifying the significance of the importance of relations between both states.
Although there are tough challenges for both states in their own regional and political sphere of influence but both states also support each other by handling the challenge. Pakistan on one hand is facing with the crippling economic vows in all dimensions and government is aiming to find new contracts and partners to bail the country out of the tough challenges. Kingdom on the other hand has faced the tough challenge at the regional level especially focusing on its own security and stability. Recently a huge blow to one of the largest oil facility of Aramco has led to not only rise in the world oil prices causing economic pressures on governments but also increased the tension between Riyadh and Tehran where US sent more supporting troops to the Kingdom. Pakistan on the other hand has faced tough challenge on Kashmir this August when the BJP led government has repealed the Article 370 causing ripples across the region and shocked not only Islamabad but also Kashmiris aswell. Pakistan has also sought help from different countries to pressurize the Modi led government including Saudi Arabia which has strong and close ties with India. Recently both countries also signed one of the biggest trade deals in the history of India in the petrochemicals. It is necessary for Pakistan to balance out the relations between the countries and set foot towards peace and stability in the region with the support from its partner countries like that of Saudi Arabia. What was desired from the countries on Kashmir was little less than what was expected as despite been making it a global issue, on Kashmir there is only diplomatic talk from the countries except few who have spoke about the atrocities of the Indian government in Kashmir. Pakistan is expecting to that Saudi Arabia can help in twisting the arms of on Kashmir but that will depend on how well Pakistan maneuver to raise the support especially from the Saudi side on India.
The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies

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