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Islamabad and Riyadh partnering for peace and stability

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News Analysis |

On Monday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Pakistan fully endorses and supports Saudi Arabia in its policies in the region. He made these remarks during his day-long visit to the Kingdom along with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt General Naveed Mukhtar.

The visit took place a day after the formal launch of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). Saudi Arabia’s premier news agency, SPA said that King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prime Minister Abbasi “reviewed bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and the latest developments in the region”.

Dastgir said that Pakistan will support the coalition in all areas in-line with the mutually agreed frameworks.

“The prime minister lauded efforts of the Saudi leadership in bringing peace and stability to the region and assured the King of Pakistan’s full support in this regard,” the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said.

At a time when the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia is simmering all across the Middle East, the launch of IMCTC is being seen as significant and one that puts Pakistan in a catch 22 situation. The brainchild of the alliance, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, while meeting Abbasi said that the members of the coalition want to learn from Pakistan’s experience in counter terrorism.

Read more: Riyadh slams Doha, suspends talks after signs of breakthrough

This coalition that does not include Iran has often been termed as one that is meant to target Riyadh’s chief rival. Iran showed a great deal of distress when Pakistan joined the alliance. However, Pakistan has categorically said that it will not be a party to any fight against one country.

Pakistan was part of the initial 34-member coalition but its role became pronounced when its decorated former Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif was made the commander of the IMCTC earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia’s premier news agency, SPA said that King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prime Minister Abbasi “reviewed bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and the latest developments in the region”.

According to sources, Abbasi agreed to provide technical and human resource cooperation for his Vision 2030. However, many are of the opinion that, given the ever-growing animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan may find continuing its balancing act doubly difficult. Analysts are certain that efforts on by Pakistan to mend fences with Iran have not been appreciated by Riyadh. It is expected that with the situation in the Middle East becoming more fluid, the launch of the coalition has to be analyzed in the context of the growing Saudi-Iranian rivalries. Doubts about the coalition being anti-Iran were confirmed when President Trump urged all states to fight Tehran earlier this year while addressing the Riyadh Summit.

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It would be reasonable to say, the IMCTC, bolstered by Trump’s outspoken anti-Iran policy, is likely to hurt Tehran and its allies in the region. Setbacks in Iraq and Syria, coupled with Iran’s closer ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies will try to bleed Iran in other theaters to include Lebanon. However, watchers are mindful that Iran’s web of proxies are well-entrenched and the country is well-positioned to take the Kingdom on.

Pakistan was part of the initial 34-member coalition but its role became pronounced when its decorated former Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif was made the commander of the IMCTC earlier this year.

While addressing the opening ceremony of the IMCTC, Defense Minister, Khurram Dastgir, while hailing Riyadh’s efforts for peace in the region said that Islamabad will support the coalition in all its components.

It must be mentioned that the 41-member coalition will focus on “ideology, communications, counter-terror financing, and military”. Dastgir said that Pakistan will support the coalition in all areas in-line with the mutually agreed frameworks.

Read more: Time is ideal for Islamabad and Tehran to turn a page…

Regardless of Pakistan’s firm stance on remaining neutral, it remains to be seen how will it maintain the balance amid a festering rivalry.


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