News Analysis |
Current Commander of an alliance of 41 Muslim countries and Pakistan army’s ex-chief Gen. (R) Raheel Sharif met with the current chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa days before Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman official visit–on Feb 16– to Pakistan. General Bajwa appreciated the role which Islamic Military Alliance has played in combating terrorism while the matters of regional security were discussed alongside. The meeting between the current and ex-chiefs of Pakistan army is highly significant in the backdrop of scheduled visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, or MBS as he is generally known as in the media around the world, is coming to Pakistan on his first ever official tour to the country. He is scheduled to land in Islamabad on Sunday for an overnight stay. Sources of the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad have confirmed that his personal equipment has already reached Pakistan.
Especially after Pakistan refused to join hands with the Gulf States as they rallied up against the Houthis in Yemen, the criticism for the state of Pakistan reached a new height in Arab media.
Prince Mohammed will be staying at the Prime Minister house while two luxury hotels in Islamabad are completely booked for the accommodation of his aides. Given the fact that Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, has come to help Pakistan when its economy desperately, his visit is most anticipated event recently in Pakistan as he is likely to bring billions of dollars in investment alongside.
As it was revealed by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Saudi Arabia is going to make the largest Foreign Direct Investment in the history of Pakistan in the form of a $10 billion oil refinery in Gawadar. The government plans to provide 20-year tax holiday on the establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar.
Other than that, negotiations are expected for the Saudi Investment in Bahawalpur solar plants, and power plants in Haveli Bahadur Shah and Bhikki. Overall a total of $15 billion worth Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is expected to be signed between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during his stay in the country. Prince Mohammed Bin Salman will also be the guest of honor at an investment conference which is scheduled to take place in the coming week.
Significance of Gen. Raheel’s Meeting with Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa
After Pakistan’s parliament voted to stay out of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, during the tenure of the previous government, a notion prevailed that the bilateral relations between both the countries are going to hit an unprecedented low. Similarly, as with the United Arab Emirates, the relations of Pakistan were not as cordial as they used to be in the past.
The meeting between the Gen. (R) Raheel Sharif and Gen. Bajwa is most likely to have constituted upon the aspirations which the Saudi government has and the understanding which both the countries need to develop.
Especially after Pakistan refused to join hands with the Gulf States as they rallied up against the Houthis in Yemen, the criticism for the state of Pakistan reached a new height in Arab media. Even UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, back in 2015, took it to twitter while lambasting at Pakistan for not reciprocating the relations with Arab states and for staying out of the fight against Houthis.
Eventually, it was the Pakistan Army who worked behind the scenes to smoothen the relations between Pakistan and the Gulf states. These efforts coupled with the trust which Imran Khan-led PTI government have brought up, helped Pakistan secure a deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates resolving the pressing balance of payment issue. It was always anticipated that funneling billions of dollars into State Bank of Pakistan and subsequent investment in the country could also be a move on Saudi Arabia’s part to feather its regional geopolitical interest.
There is no doubt that it was the result of efforts carried out by Pakistan Army which led to revamping of relations between Pakistan and the Arab states but it remains to be seen how this cooperation transpire on the regional geopolitical paradigm of South Asia.
The meeting between the Gen. (R) Raheel Sharif and Gen. Bajwa is most likely to have constituted upon the aspirations which the Saudi government has and the understanding which both the countries need to develop. Though Pakistan has maintained that it will try to act as a solicitor between the confronting powers of the Muslim world, practically the country might resort to backseat practicing silent diplomacy if it continues with its ideology of non-partisanship.