ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office endorsed on Friday Saudi action against rebels in Yemen, which was aimed at curbing ‘external’ involvement in the Middle East and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security, but again stopped short of committing troops for an offensive overseas.
The contours of Pakistan’s policy on Yemen were restated in a statement on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s one-day fence-mending trip to Riyadh on Thursday, along with Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and other key government figures.
The statement suggests that though the phrasing of the policy may have changed under growing pressure from Riyadh to sound more conciliatory towards the Arabs, the government has so far firmly stuck to the policy red-lines of not getting militarily engaged on a third country’s soil — in this case Yemen.
The role that Pakistan government envisages for itself is about enforcing the United Nations Security Council’s arms embargo on Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh; assisting in taking the political process forward; and the latest offer of delivering humanitarian assistance inside Yemen.
“Pakistan offered to cooperate in delivering humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen. Pakistan expressed its willingness to play a positive role in promoting a peaceful resolution of the ongoing political crisis in Yemen and render its support for implementation of UN Resolution 2216,” the FO said about what Mr Sharif has been offering to the Saudis.
The Pakistani ‘consolation package’ for KSA does include expansion of defence, security and intelligence cooperation with the kingdom, but it’s only about the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia itself.
“It was underscored that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was a policy imperative for Pakistan. Pakistan could not remain a bystander against efforts to destabilise the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated that any aggression against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will evoke a strong response from Pakistan,” the statement said.
“Pakistan condemned the violent overthrow of the legitimate government of Yemen by Houthis and was deeply perturbed on external support of this process. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agreed that this alarming and unacceptable trend will destabilise the Middle East…. It is, therefore, not only the responsibility of the coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to defeat the trend but that of the entire international community,” the FO said without naming Iran, which is the only country that has been accused of backing Houthis.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2015