Deepening Saudi-Pakistan ties
The visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy premier and defense minister, to Pakistan is of immense importance and highlight the strong ties between the two brotherly Muslim countries.
Saudi Arabia has always stood with Pakistan to help the country weather its political and economic crises. In 2000, the Kingdom provided asylum to ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which reflected its influence and respect in the country’s political circles. After Sharif’s 2013 election win, the Saudi government extended a $1.5 billion loan to help the brotherly country shore up its economy.
Bilateral ties between the two sides experienced some chill during the previous PPP regime in Pakistan as the country shifted its focus and redefined foreign relation priorities. Pakistan’s strengthening relations with the US and China, and India’s growing closeness with Saudi Arabia, may have sent some negative signals that the Kingdom and Pakistan are drifting apart. This, however, was not true for their special relationship.
In the background of Middle East’s quickly changing geopolitical and security situation, the Saudi-Pakistan relationship has evolved into a strong security alliance. Last November, Gen. Raheel Sharif, chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, made an important visit to Riyadh and pledged his country’s firm commitment to protect the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s military expertise, including joint military drills by the two countries, will continue to play an integral role in overcoming the Kingdom’s security challenges. As Pakistan enters the final phase of its military operation against terrorists, it will be a key member of the Saudi-led anti-terror coalition.
The country’s experience in countering terrorism by adopting multi-pronged strategies will add immense value to this widely applauded initiative by Saudi Arabia. The coalition can also learn crucial lessons from Pakistan’s long war against militants and extremism to defeat Al-Qaeda and other cross-border infiltrators.
In a recent visit to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir discussed matters of regional security and situation arising out of confrontation with Iran. As the only nuclear-equipped Muslim country, Pakistan is in a strong position to challenge the regional power aspirations of India and Iran. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will continue to bolster military cooperation to ensure a balance of power, especially in the aftermath of Iranian nuclear deal.
The visit of Saudi foreign minister has once again highlighted the value of Pakistan as a strategic partner, and laid to rest negative speculations about the future of their relationship. While Pakistan denounced the attack on Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran, it has called for finding peaceful means to promote Muslim unity.
As Pakistan navigates carefully through the Middle East turmoil, it can be expected to play a leading role in brokering peace between all sides and help close allies grapple with the complicated security challenges.
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