News Analysis |
Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) paid his first global visit on March 7, 2018 to Britain. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and UK have been enjoying their long term alliance but Brexit is expected to shape this relation differently. Their bilateral relations are based on deep security links as Saudi Arabia shares intelligence with UK. Saudis are seeking UK cyber specialists in order to counter security threats from Iran. Besides, British exports to the country have risen to £6.2bn – a 41 percent increase since 2010.
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister told Financial Times that this visit will take UK-KSA relations on higher levels and would further their cooperation in education, security and technology with $100 billion said to be on table.
The visit is providing Saudi Arabia an opportunity to get support for the Prince’s domestic reforms and invite investors to invest in his country. Simultaneously, UK wants to broader its economic relations after its exclusion from European Union as well as to deepen its defence ties.
UK politicians have some concerns that their government has sold out these arms to KSA against the “Campaign against the Arms Trade” since its bombardment in 2015. On the other side, it is perceived that Iran is weaponing Houthi rebels.
Salman has gathered certain support in his efforts to liberalize the desert country which was living in a traditional manner since ages from UK. For instance, KSA is allowing its women to drive, open their businesses without their men’s authorization, play football and cinemas etc.
KSA and other Arab countries are trying to diversify their economies making less dependent only on oil resources. In this search, KSA has formulated its vision 2030 to expand its economy. In this domain, UK aspires to invest in different sectors such as in entertainment industries, education, tourism and health etc. Moreover, post-Brexit, UK needs more ally and partners for supporting its economy.
UK welcomes China’ Belt & Road initiative as it would provide the Former with immense business opportunities to get full benefit from this project. Likewise, UK sees the KSA an outdoor market for making investments. Another aspect of their bilateral relations is that UK supports Saudi-led coalition forces fighting in Yemen to restore the old regime.
UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May has defended KSA fight in Yemen when demonstration had sparked regarding the human rights violations in Yemen. Where more than 10,000 people had been killed.
The dominant perception is that Theresa may prefer interests of arms dealer above than rights of Yemenis but how their cooperation unfolds the Yemen crises in future is yet to be seen. On the other hand, Saudi claims that the Houthi rebels backed by Iran are the main cause of upended Yemen conflict.
The protestors have been planned to demonstrate protests throughout his visit mainly outside Downing Street. UK has provided ‘peace maintaining equipment’ worth £4.6bn. Which included aircraft, helicopters, drones, grenades, bombs and missiles.
Here the question arises, whether UK and KSA will be able to end this conflict to bring peace and stability in the war-torn Yemen? How UK can play an active role to stop proxy wars of two regional giant: Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East to sustain peace in order to protect their long-run investments and projects. UK may play an active role to find out a political solution for ongoing conflicts by bringing them (Iran-Saudi Arabia) on the table.
The protestors have been planned to demonstrate protests throughout his visit mainly outside Downing Street. UK has provided ‘peace maintaining equipment’ worth £4.6bn. Which included aircraft, helicopters, drones, grenades, bombs and missiles. UK politicians have some concerns that their government has sold out these arms to KSA against the “Campaign against the Arms Trade” since its bombardment in 2015. On the other side, it is perceived that Iran is weaponing Houthi rebels.
Therefore, visit is not aimed refresh their bilateral relations but will unfold new avenues for cooperation. The prince will travel to Paris and Washington DC after his stop in the UK. But this visit will not just be a case of two allies refreshing their relationship.