Distinguished Saudi-Pakistani ties certain to be deepened
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong relations at all levels and the people of the two countries have brotherly links. There was and still remains strong agreement between the leaderships of the two countries and mutual support in times of need. Pakistan has always perceived Saudi Arabia as a brotherly and friendly country that it can turn to during difficult times. This article will not go on to discuss trade exchanges, joint investment projects and the fact that Saudi Arabia is home to the largest number of Pakistani expatriates, who greatly contribute to their country’s development, as such information is well known to all.
Saudi-Pakistani relations recently experienced some short-term tensions due to a misunderstanding by the Pakistani side and some Pakistani statements that did not consider the depth of the bilateral relations between the two countries and their ability to overcome all differences. Neither did they consider the economic impact of the coronavirus disease crisis on Saudi Arabia. However, Riyadh and Islamabad have quickly managed to return their relations to normal. This was demonstrated by Pakistan’s appointment of a prominent figure, retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar, as the country’s new ambassador in Riyadh and the phone call held between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March to discuss how they can cooperate on the Saudi Green Initiative. Similar efforts have been made by Pakistan to protect the environment.
During Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the weekend — on the invitation of the crown prince — several agreements were concluded, such as the establishment of a Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council, which will be headed on the Saudi side by the crown prince and on the Pakistani side by Khan. The two leaders also agreed to take full advantage of all available opportunities to advance bilateral trade and investment and encourage communication between the people and businessmen of the two countries. They also encouraged the formation of a joint committee for trade exchange and investment, which will become part of the Supreme Coordination Council, to facilitate bilateral trade in specific sectors and on certain items. In addition, five memorandums of understanding were signed during the visit to enhance cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, environment and the media, as well as in other important fields.
The visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa to Saudi Arabia preceded the arrival of Khan. His meetings with the crown prince and Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman were aimed at strengthening military and defense relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In addition, the meetings discussed other matters of common concern, experiences were exchanged, and promises were made to enhance security cooperation between the two countries in an effort to uphold peace in the region.
Moreover, Riyadh is expected to make further efforts to resolve the Pakistani-Indian tensions over the Jammu and Kashmir region, as Saudi Arabia enjoys distinguished relations with both countries. This move will positively affect the rights of the Kashmiri people, who continue to suffer religious persecution. Regarding this matter, the Pakistani prime minister was due to meet, during his three-day visit, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen and Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa. It is worth mentioning here that Saudi Arabia has made exceptional efforts to reduce tensions between Pakistan and India in the past and has expressed its support for Islamabad. Also, these two international Muslim organizations have made great efforts to support the Kashmiri people at all levels.
The two countries can no doubt bypass any real or perceived difficulties that may hinder the development of relations.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
In summary, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy historical and distinguished bilateral relations and the leaders of the two countries have great potential to widen and deepen their ties. The two countries can no doubt bypass any real or perceived difficulties that may hinder the development of relations. In this regard, intellectual and academic elites can play a significant role in helping to achieve this noble goal; therefore, I suggest the formation of a joint committee for intellectual and knowledge coordination that includes prominent national, academic and media personalities from the two countries. This committee should work to present proposals and recommendations to decision-makers in order to strengthen relations between the two brotherly countries and to hold joint conferences and workshops periodically as a positive gesture to achieve common strategic goals.
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami