Andrew Korybko |
Pakistan decided to dispatch troops to Saudi Arabia in order to “train and advise” its military.
The news broke late last week and has since sparked a flurry of commentary about Pakistan’s motivations and the pertinence of this mission to the Saudi-led war on Yemen. Islamabad soon thereafter clarified that its forces have already been in Saudi Arabia for years to begin with and reassured critics that they won’t play any role in the international conflict raging in the Kingdom’s southern neighbor. In the words of Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, “We only want to train their forces and better advise them. The areas bordering Yemen are mountainous, and as Pakistan’s army is highly trained in mountain warfare, we will train and advise them.”
The official brought up a pertinent point, and it’s that not only does the Pakistani military have extensive anti-terrorist experience, but their “training and advisory” tasks actually prove that Saudi Arabia needs Pakistan more than the reverse, which shatters the stereotype about their relationship. It was previously thought by outside observers that Pakistan was indebted to Saudi Arabia because of the Kingdom’s oil riches and related influential Wahhabi sway all across the world and in South Asia in particular, but that’s no longer the case even if it seemed to be not so long ago. Pakistan has historically been partnered with Saudi Arabia and respects the country’s custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques, but it is not Riyadh’s “puppet” like some falsely imply.
Pakistan’s role as the “Zipper of Eurasia” therefore makes it indispensable to Saudi Arabia in a pivotal geostrategic sense and thus adds credence to the argument that the South Asian state is needed much more by the Wahhabi Kingdom than vice-versa.
That’s why, for instance, Islamabad refused to join the international military coalition in Yemen in 2015, much to the surprise of Saudi Arabia which had presumed that Pakistan would do otherwise. That said, former Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif leads the Saudi-based 41-member Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition precisely because of the expertise that his country brings to the asymmetrical warfare challenge that the bloc is aimed at confronting. In addition, it’s worthwhile to mention that Saudi Arabia is undergoing far-reaching systemic reforms initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), particularly the ambitious socio-economic program of “Vision 2030” that aspires to smoothly transition the country to its inevitable post-oil future.
In connection with this, some of the $130 billion that China invested in Saudi Arabia last year as well as the $100 billion that the government squeezed from its oligarchs through the recent “anti-corruption campaign” will go towards modernizing the economy and connecting it to Beijing’s global Silk Road network, to which end it’s integral for Riyadh to utilize the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for facilitating bilateral trade between the Kingdom and the People’s Republic. Pakistan’s role as the “Zipper of Eurasia” therefore makes it indispensable to Saudi Arabia in a pivotal geostrategic sense and thus adds credence to the argument that the South Asian state is needed much more by the Wahhabi Kingdom than vice-versa.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and a regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia.