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Thursday, February 15, 2024

As PM visit ends, what can Pakistan expect from Saudi Arabia?

After a dip in Pak-Saudi ties, the countries' diplomatic relations seem to be strengthening once again as PM Khan concludes his Saudi visit. Boosting relations with Saudi Arabia provides Pakistan with many incentives, however, it is possible that Saudi Arabia has other tasks set in store for Pakistan.

Pakistan has deep-rooted relations with KSA, since independence. Both countries share some commonalities, which make them stick together—both are Muslim countries and considered the giants of the Islamic world.

KSA possesses the divine HARAMAIN SHAREEFAIN. Due to which Muslims have soft conduct towards them, despite anti-human monarchs’ rule.

Pakistan is always highly entrusted by the kingdom rulers and public in many regards for example guarding the holy mosques and some of the kingdom’s boundaries by the Pakistani military. We are rendered with many favors by the kingdom— funding religious institutions, employment of Pakistani nationals, oil facilities, and much more.

Read more: Saudi Arabia to build a huge mosque in Islamabad’s university

Since democracy began stabilizing in Pakistan and no military take-over for almost 20 years, the relations between the two brotherly countries are fluctuating.

The past three general elections in Pakistan produced heterogeneous results and as a result, three different political governments are established, PPP(2008-2013) PMLN (2013-2018), and now PTI (2018-present).

Read more: Political parties: a necessity for transitional democracy in Pakistan?

Pak-Saudi ties during PM Khan

PTI’s current ruling party chairman and Prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, after taking charge of the country, inaugurated his foreign visits to KSA.

His median visit to the Kingdom in 2018 brought so many benefits to the country; 3 billion dollars in cash to bail out IMF installments and oil facility for 3 years on differed payments. This aid released so much pressure from Pakistan and avoided Pakistan from the debt trap.

Read more: Pakistan receives $1 billion in the second tranche of Saudi aid

The Imran-MBS bromance initiated from here and reached its peak when MBS along with his entourage made an official visit to Pakistan. The visit was much adored by Pakistanis as MBS was personally driven to the PM office by Imran Khan in a Mercedes-Benz.

Also, the statement by MBS, “Mr. prime minister consider me your ambassador to Saudi Arabia,” was highly cherished on social media. MBS visit was not empty of incentives, MOUs worth 20 billion dollars were signed between different ministry counterparts of both countries.

Read more: Pak-Saudi bilateral ties: The tale of long standing cordial relations

Imran Khan continued visiting KSA while reducing tensions between the arch-rivals Iran and KSA, which put Pakistan in hot waters. KSA did not like the approach and sulked.

The tensions between Iran and KSA grew and reached a peak. MBS said, “ There is no dialogue with Iran, they know war and we are up for that war,” after the alleged attack on ARAMCO which cost the Kingdom 2 billion dollars.

Read more: Can PM Khan mediate Saudi-Iran ties as Pakistan signs agreements?

Deteriorating relations

The relations between Pakistan and KSA plunged when Pakistan was put in a test to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan were other Islamic countries, which succumbed to unknown pressure and recognized Israel.

The diplomatic relations of Pakistan also deteriorated with the UAE in that passage of time. When Pakistan was clear and sound regarding Israel’s recognition, KSA put pressure on Pakistan and asked for their cash back, which Pakistan managed to return with china’s help.

Read more: China to provide Pakistan with $1.5 billion to pay off Saudi debt

The things remained at the bottom until the recent presidential election in the USA—the MBS darling Trump couldn’t retain the post and fell to democratic Joe Biden.

Joe Biden, straight up after taking charge, expressed his concerns about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s involvement in the Yemen crisis. Biden also hinted that Iran’s nuclear deal will be negotiable and economic sanctions can be loosened.

The icing on the cake—China too signed a mega-investment deal worth 400 billion$ in the next 25 years.

Read more: Iran-China’s latest deal and how it can transform Middle East

This statement was a huge blow to Saudi Arabia, and they completely shifted their policy from aggressive to meek. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince had said in an interview on Tuesday: “At the end of the day, Iran is a neighboring country. All we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran.”

This statement is very much strange after the statement he gave in 2017 which said, “Iran is hostile country; they only know war, and we are ready for it.”

Read more: Saudi prince seeks good relations with “arch-nemesis” Iran

This drastic change in tone may be because KSA expected the USA to be harsh on Iran and will forcibly ask Iran about their alleged involvement in the oil processing facilities attack back in September 2019.

USA did agree to the KSA side of the story—but pragmatically nothing came from them. MBS realized; the promises made to him by the USA are not heeded.

Saudi Arabia facilitating PM Khan’s visit

Joe Biden recently praised Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and highlighted the importance of PAK-USA relations. Iran is always welcoming to Pakistan and China is a brotherly country.

This strategic importance of Pakistan made the Kingdom regret their conduct and turned them to patch things up. High-profile delegations visited Imran Khan with special messages from the crown prince and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan made frequent visits to the PM office in recent time.

Read more: We have never and will not ditch Pakistan: Saudi ambassador

Finally, Kingdom’s ambassador shuttling from embassy to PM office bore fruit and a detailed visit of both Army chief and Prime minister Imran Khan to the Kingdom was organized. Army chief left for the Kingdom two days prior to the visit of Imran Khan.

PM Imran Khan on Saturday arrived in Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit accompanied by a high-level delegation. The reception was grand and very warming.

The crown prince personally received Imran Khan at Jeddah Airport and the cultural purple carpet was rolled out for the Pakistani counterpart from the plane to the car.

Read more: PM Imran Khan to visit Saudi Arabia for loan & economic deals

Is Pakistan being used?

The visit has concluded, Prime Minister met the king and crown prince personally. The delegation-level meetings too took place—MOUs signing, efforts to stop Islamophobia in the west, trade partnerships, investment deals, oil facilities, and cash flows are the trademark of PAK-KSA visits.

These benefits are always on the card, and for an underprivileged nation like us, this is adequate to chant Saudi yatra for few days.

But I am curious about the other side of the story—the mystery for which we are buttered. Is there a particular task that could be assigned to Pakistan in return for these incentives? Will Pakistan be used as a tool to bridge Iran & KSA?

Read more: Can PM Khan mediate Saudi-Iran ties as Pakistan signs agreements?

Also, could we be asked to bail out KSA in Yemen crisis? Is it possible that we are priced for persuading Joe Biden to be Donald Trump for MBS? Is there something in China that KSA is looking for? Does the Kingdom need us in military regard?

The aforementioned questions are merely valid when it comes to the materialistic nature of KSA for the past few decades. The abundant money the Kingdom possesses can make anyone dance on their fingers.

Read more: Saudi Arabia’s $6 billion for a year – Dr. Kamal Monnoo

If they adopted Pakistan, there would be a specific vacancy and it is very early to say what could it be. Let’s wait for the mystery to reveal.

The author is a Network administrator at PTCL with Masters in Telecom and networking. He is fond of writing on domestic, national, and international affairs. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.