News Analysis |
Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi left for Saudi Arabia on Monday to witness the closing ceremony of Joint Gulf Shield-1 military exercises. After the ceremony was over, King Salman of Saudi Arabia called upon Prime Minster Abbasi today and discussed the matters of mutual interest, pivoted by security cooperation and situation in Yemen. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was accompanied by Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia Vice Admiral (Retd) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique and head of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition General Raheel Sharif.
Before the meeting, PM Abbasi was among the dignitaries of 24 participants countries of Gulf Shield-1 exercises. Along with Saudi Arabian and Pakistani armed force contingents, the USA, the UK, Jordan, and the UAE along with several other Gulf countries and Afghanistan also participated in the exercises. The objective of the exercise was to learn and share different operational capabilities which all these reputable armies of the world possess.
The decision was not seen in the depth of circumstantial needs which made Pakistan go with the choice by Gulf countries and ultimately it led to the aloofness of diplomatic relations with UAE and KSA for some time to a certain extent.
With the participation of almost all the modernized defense forces of the world along with their latest state-of-the-art hardware, both terrestrial and aerial, drills mark to be one of the most significant ones in the region aiming at “raising level of preparedness; enhancing mutual coordination and cooperation among the participating countries, exchange of expertise and security integration”.
Drills centered on conventional warfare strategies as well as the latest form of warfare i.e. counter terrorism. In the eastern city of Jubail in Saudi Arabia, for the purpose of mock military exercises, facilities are constructed which allow armed and law enforcement forces to simulate missions such as hostage rescue. Troops of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft, JF-17 Thunder Fighter jets, Pakistan Navy ships, and commandos from Special Services Group also participated in the exercise.
The closing ceremony was attended among others by Saudi King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Arab leaders including Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajid.
Troops of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft, JF-17 Thunder Fighter jets, Pakistan Navy ships, and commandos from Special Services Group also participated in the exercise.
The meeting on the periphery of military exercises between the head of states of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia focused on the joint military cooperation between two countries. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia share a long and collaborative history of military, financial and cultural assistance. The presence of high profile serving generals and head of Islamic Military Coalition Gen. (Rtd) Raheel Sharif in the meeting suggest that the talks would have certainly included the role of Pakistan army in the national security of Kingdom. Due to religious commitments and security of Holy place inside the kingdom, Pakistan has always volunteered its best servicemen for the protection of the Saudi Kingdom against any form of threats.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and coalition had started air strikes against the Houthi rebels, who have managed to take control of capital Sana. Due to their ineptness to launch a counteroffensive because of being short of an air force, the rebels have relied on ballistic missiles of Iranian origin which are easily intercepted by the US made PATRIOT missile defense system which Saudi Air defense employs. The missiles are generally aimed at Saudi Royal palace and other government installations.
Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan to join the coalition in its belligerence against Houthi rebels but because of refusal from parliament, Pakistan opted to stay neutral in the conflict. The decision was not seen in the depth of circumstantial needs which made Pakistan go with the choice by Gulf countries and ultimately it led to the aloofness of diplomatic relations with UAE and KSA for some time to a certain extent. However, due to the respect and reputation Pakistan had earned as a result of a successful onslaught against the menace of terrorism within the country, it was and continues to be viable for the national interests of Saudi Arabia.