Dr Nasreen Akhtar
PRIME Minister Imran Khan’s exclusive visits to Saudi Arabia have reinforced the existing interconnection between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Khan has convinced the Saudi government that Pakistan would play its role in defusing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia visa-avis Yemen and Iran. Mutual trust and cooperation has strengthened relations between the two leading Muslim countries. Presently relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are blossoming. Historical visit of Muhammad Bin Salman is making history of trust, cooperation, and friendship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince would kickoff commendable agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Khan’s government which is determined to make Pakistan a progressive and strong country. Muhammad Bin Salman is known as moderate, visionary and reformist Prince in the world. He has introduced many social changes in Saudi Arabia.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Khan, revealed his socio-economic policies and impediments in Pakistan. Consequently Saudi Arabia offered colossal economic support of $6billion to Khan’s government. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan shows his country’s commitment to Pakistan and its people. This is the time when Pakistan is facing grave economic challenges and his visit would help Pakistan to boost up its economy. Diverse MoUs would strengthen strategic and economic relations between the two Muslim countries which have never let down each other (whenever they needed) in the time of need. Since its independence, Pakistan heavily relied on three countries – America, China and Saudi Arabia for its economic, security and political needs. Saudi Arabia is an important country in the Middle East and in the Muslim world. Pakistani people have strong emotional attachment with Saudi Arabia owning to two sacred places- Mecca and Madinah. Pakistani governments and people are always ready to protect Saudi Arabia because of the holy places. In the Muslim world these two countries cover broader strategic, military and economic ties. Saudi Arabia values Pakistan not only due to its strong defence but also its role in the Islamic world. Since Pakistan is commanding Islamic Military Alliance of 34 Islamic countries, under retired General Raheel Sharif, the Saudi government seeks Pakistan’s role in eliminating terrorism in the Middle East because Pakistan has successfully eliminated terrorist network from its soil.
Increasing global security alliances and cooperation between the countries have changed the dynamics of world politics. In the present global environment Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s relations are emerging. Let us have a brief and candid look at Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s cordial relations. Since Pakistan’s inception, strong ties exist between these two countries. Evidently, Saudi Arabia never disappointed Pakistan during its internal or external crises. Pakistan never forgets its support during wars with India in 1965-71 and politically it supported Pakistan’s stance on ‘non-recognition of Bangladesh’ and supports Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute. History tells us, the US, the most trustworthy ally of Pakistan did not help Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 (wars with India). In 1979, Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and threatened Pakistan’s security. Saudi Arabia, the Muslim country, helped Pakistan the most.
In Pakistan’s history different governments (civil-military) have ruled and all political and military establishments strengthened cordial relations with Saudi Kingdom and assured Pakistan’s security and political support to Saudi Arabia. All Pakistani rulers pay frequent visits to Saudi Arabia to show their affection and support to the King of Saudi Arabia. Strategically, “since 1950s, all Pakistani governments have assured, many times, Saudi Arabia that whenever there is a threat to Saudi security” Pakistan would protect its territory, though commitment is not “documented” but both regard each other. There is a general (public) perception in Pakistan that Saudi Arabia’s security is Pakistan’s security. The reason is simple; majority middle and working class is in Saudi Arabia are playing pivotal role in the development of Saudi Arabia. As far as defence is concerned, in 1979,the blockade of Ka’ba and “Grand Mosque was ended with the help of Pakistani special units” and Pakistani forces were deployed in Saudi Arabia for its internal security and close military cooperation between the two countries continues today. Though critiques and critics both have established their assumption that Pakistan would provide nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia (if needed) but they neglect the US-India nuclear deal and Israel’s nuclear weapons which have imbalanced power in the region.
Since 1970s, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are having multiple defence and economic cooperation, this cooperation continues between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In the early 1990s when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait, Pakistan sent its forces to defend Saudi Arabia’s border. When international sanctions were imposed on Pakistan, after its first nuclear test in 1998, Saudi Arabia, the only Muslim country, “promised 50,000 barrels per day of free oil so Pakistan could cope with the economic sanctions”. No doubt, Saudi Arabia has supported Pakistan during economic depression and natural disastrous. For example, Saudi Arabia provided $20 million during the 2005 deadly earthquake and $170 million during the worst flood of 2010 in Pakistan. In 2014, Pakistan faced economic crisis and Saudi Arabia granted $1.5 billion and helped stabilise Pakistan’s fragile economy.
Prime Minister Khan inherited an economically weak Pakistan and he needed immediate funds to run his government. Khan preferred seeking help from Saudi Arabia which provided “$6 billion bailout package” for Pakistan’s fragile economy. Saudi Arabia is setting up Oil Refinery at Gwadar Sea Port ‘at a cost of $10 billion. Blossoming and emerging relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would make and mark a new history between the two strong Muslim countries.
—The writer is Assistant Professor, IIUI, Islamabad.