ISLAMABAD: The fifth meeting of the Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMCC) of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over bilateral defence cooperation and pledged to intensify it.

The meeting was co-chaired by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat and Saudi Chief of General Staff Gen Fayyadh Bin Hamid Al Ruwaili.

The 5th JMCC was held after nearly two and a half years. It last met in Saudi Arabia in June 2016.

“Regional security situation, bilateral military engagements and training cooperation came under discussion,” the ISPR said.

A military source said the two sides held extensive discussions on all aspects of their military relations, including training, exercises and supply of defence equipment.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have very strong military ties. This cooperation is based on bilateral security cooperation agreement of 1982, under which Pakistan committed to assisting the kingdom in training and defence production capabilities. Pakistan in February last year agreed to deploy more soldiers “on training and advice mission”.

These troops were in addition to the nearly 1,600 that were already deployed there. The size of fresh deployment was never disclosed.

The decision to deploy extra troops helped ease strains in ties caused by Pakistan’s refusal to contribute troops for Yemen offensive against Houthis.

Former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif is, meanwhile, leading the coalition of militaries of Muslim countries that were put together by Saudi Arabia.

GHQ: Gen Ruwaili later called on Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

“Geo-strategic environment and matters related to bilateral defence cooperation were discussed,” the ISPR said.

“The Saudi CGS thanked Pakistan Army for assistance provided by Pakistan Army especially towards training of Royal Saudi Army both at Pakistan as well as at KSA through bilateral training cooperation. He acknowledged high standards of professionalism of the Pakistan Army,” the ISPR further said.

Gen Bajwa said that the Pakistan Army took the capacity building of Saudi troops as its responsibility.

Gen Ruwaili was presented Guard of Honour on his arrival at the GHQ and he also laid a floral wreath at Yadgar-i-Shuhada.

Gen Ruwaili also visited Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra.

He was awarded Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military).

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019