News Analysis |
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is on the official tour to Saudi Arabia with the primary objective of seizing the opportunity presented at Future Investment Initiative Conference (FII) to bring the much needed foreign investment into the country. He also met King Salman of Saudi Arabia before going on to make an elaborated 35 minutes speech at FII Conference highlighting vast investment opportunities to the potential investors sitting in the audience.
But apart from the future investment into the sectors like energy and minerals, he specifically wanted to get some relief from Saudi Arabia to avoid IMF. Finally, it was announced that Saudi Arabia has agreed to give $6 billion bailout package –including $3bn balance of payments support and another $3bn in deferred payments on oil imports– to Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have historically been close to each other but at the international diplomatic fronts, Saudi Arabia has somewhat superseded its own interest at the cost of Pakistan.
Owing to the fragile economic conditions of Pakistan, his visit is overwhelmed with the monetary benefit it manages to get at large for the country ultimately overshadowing the secondary, but long-term, political objectives.
Attending the FII Conference Despite Khashoggi’s Murder
The allegations, which later proved to be true, that the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul led to the backing out of major business corporations, media giants, and even government from Investment Conference.
But Prime Minister Khan decided to be the part of the conference irrespective of how would it actually look. The official statement of Pakistan’s Foreign Office is also more generic in nature regarding Khashoggi’s murder which goes on to depict the reluctance of the incumbent PTI government to pry the issue.
There are two apparent objectives for the discourse being followed. First, and the obvious one, is that Pakistan’s economy needs all sorts of help it gets to stabilize the deteriorating state of affairs. Especially when the newly formed government has to take necessary but at the same time unpopular decision i.e. hike in Gas and electricity prices, aborting the subsidy on Metro Bus Project etc, the approval ratings drastically come down.
Secondly standing with the kingdom at this time will certainly be taken in good faith by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who, if all goes smooth, is here to rein Saudi Arabia for a long time. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have historically been close to each other but at the international diplomatic fronts, Saudi Arabia has somewhat superseded its own interest at the cost of Pakistan.
All this time, the national leadership of Pakistan was simply not able enough to look beneath the surface and work toward the long-term objectives.
There are going to be multiple occasions in future when Pakistan would need Saudi Arabia’s international influence to play its part. And with the daunting decision to stand with the Kingdom despite the horrible crime when sanction threats were coming from the rest of the world, Pakistan’s government would be hoping to get the required support.
An Opportunity to bring Muslims Powers Together?
So far the newly formed PTI government under the leadership of Imran Khan has managed to bring on landmark developments with multiple and confronting, global powers. A green signal to be the investing partner in CPEC from Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s promise to issue 1 lac visas for Pakistani labors are few examples.
The relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are strained after the former imposed an air, land, and sea blockade over the latter in 2017 which is still intact. If Imran Khan manages to bring both the powers together or at least lay the foundation for the resolution of disputes it could be highly beneficial for the country in the long run.
Pakistan has been isolated from the Muslim world due to the convoluted state of domestic and regional affairs. All this time, the national leadership of Pakistan was simply not able enough to look beneath the surface and work toward the long-term objectives. It presents an opportunity for Pakistan to once again be in the driving seat and steer the dimensions of Muslim Bloc.
The stakes of the visit are way beyond just the economic equation. It is completely up to the providence of Imran Khan and his team to extract the highest plausible amount of benefits from the existing scenario.