By: Malik Muhammad Ashraf
For quite some time, the media has been focusing on the reported issues in relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, insinuating that the Saudi government was not happy over criticism of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by our foreign minister for not convening the meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir. Consequently, as reported, Saudi government has demanded back $ 1 billion from Pakistan prematurely and also stopped oil supplies to her.
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan in an exclusive interaction with the host of a private channel last week, categorically quashed what was being bandied around in regards to relations between the two countries. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, responding to a question by a journalist on Monday, also vehemently denied the notion of kink in Pak-Saudi relations saying, “There were no tensions between the two countries and Saudi Arabia had neither asked Islamabad to return its loan nor stopped oil supply to her. All speculations in this regard had been conjured by the media. The Kingdom has not changed its stance on Kashmir and the two countries are also on the same page as far as recognition of Israel is concerned.”
However, we must accept the reality that while OIC has been successful in promoting religious solidarity between the member states, it has remained ineffective in forging political solidarity between them. The member countries have different perspectives on regional and global issues guided by their own interests and are dictated by permeating global politics, as is proven by UAE’s agreement with Israel to normalise relations and establish diplomatic ties. Some more Muslim countries are also in line to go that way. It is indeed a great set-back to the cause of the Palestinian people, which has remained an issue of concern for the entire Muslim Ummah for some decades, and on which there was unanimity of views.
Nevertheless, it is a matter of great satisfaction that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have taken a similar position on the issue and stressed the need for resolution of the Palestinian issue according to the UN resolutions without annexation of the Palestinian lands. Prime Minister Imran Khan has also categorically ruled out the possibility of having any kind of relations with Israel until Palestinians get their rights.
On Kashmir also, there is unanimity of views on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in consonance with UN resolutions and Saudi Arabia has supported Pakistan on the issue throughout. There might be a different perspective on pursuing that objective and the timing of the efforts but there is surely no difference of opinion on the substantive issue.
The relations between the two brotherly Muslim countries have taken new dimensions since Imran Khan has come into power. Prime Minister Imran Khan has visited Saudi Arabia twice since assuming the mantle of premiership of the country. Saudi commitment to winch Pakistan out of the current financial quagmire amply reflects the added warmth and depth to bilateral relations between the two countries. As a consequence of the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia, it promised a package of $6 billion comprising $3 billion as balance of payments support for one year and the supply of $3 billion worth of oil on deferred payment for three years. The Saudi crown prince during his visit to Pakistan promised $20 billion investment in Pakistan and setting up an oil refinery at Gwadar.
While Saudi Arabia, like a true friend and a brotherly Muslim country, has shown exceptional commitment to support and assist Pakistan in times of adversity, Pakistan has also been in the forefront in assisting Saudi Arabia to ward off external threats to her territorial integrity and internal security concerns.
Pakistan Army contributed to the establishment of Saudi armed forces in 1960. It assisted the Royal Saudi Air Force with the introduction of their first fighter jets. Fighter Pilots of the Pakistan Air Force flew the aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force to repel an incursion from South Yemen in 1969. When the renegades seized Masjid-al Haram in 1979, it was the Pakistani commandos who restored the Saudi administration over the Holy mosque. During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, Pakistan sent troops to protect the Islamic holy sites. In the 1970s and 1980s, approximately 15,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in the kingdom. Pakistan also formed a key intermediary in the Al-Yamamah arms deal with the United Kingdom
In early April 2012 Pakistan played a role in defusing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia over Bahrain. In the wake of an attack on Saudi oil installations last year which heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan was in the forefront, playing a mediatory role. On the situation in Yemen and threats to Saudi territorial integrity, Pakistan has shown complete solidarity with Saudi Arabia and vowed to defend the holy land at all costs if it was attacked. In the current volatile situation in the Middle East and its fallout for Saudi Arabia, Pakistani support to Saudi rulers is pivotal to the ability of the Kingdom to confront those dangers. The nature and extent of past and present ties between the two countries testify to the fact that their relations are as sound as ever.
Published in Daily Nation
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