Seeing conflict between two countries friendly to Saudi Arabia 'pains us': minister on Indo-Pak ties

Updated Feb 21 2019

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir pictured during the Saudi crown prince's visit to Pakistan on February 17, 2019. — Photo courtesy: Arab News Pakistan
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir pictured during the Saudi crown prince's visit to Pakistan on February 17, 2019. — Photo courtesy: Arab News Pakistan

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Wednesday stressed the need for "de-escalation" between India and Pakistan following the attack on Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Pulwama district of Indian-occupied Kashmir, which New Delhi has blamed Pakistan for.

In an exclusive interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Al-Jubeir said of Saudi Arabia's stance in the matter: "Our view is that there should be de-escalation, there should be discussions between the two countries in order to clarify these issues and resolve them in a way that protects the lives of the innocent."

Also read: Fear grips Muslims living in occupied Kashmir after Pulwama attack

This prompted the interviewer to remark that the Indian prime minister had already said that "the time for talks is now over" and to then ask how Riyadh plans on helping in de-escalation of the tensions.

"Will Saudi Arabia step in to mediate or help out in any way?" the host asked.

To this the foreign minister — after asserting that both countries were important to Saudi Arabia — responded by saying: "It pains us to see conflict between two countries that we believe to be friendly countries to Saudi Arabia."

"We believe that instability in this part of the world presents a danger to the rest of the world," he added.

Al-Jubeir, who is part of the delegation accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to India, also made clear that it was not Saudi Arabia's policy "to insert [itself] in an issue between two friends unless both friends ask us to". He did, however, express the hope that both countries can resolve the issue directly.

The interviewer also put forth India's concerns that a joint statement issued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia contained a line saying "both countries also underline the need for avoiding the politicisation of the UN listing regime".

"This seems to give an appearance that Saudi Arabia would be opposed to the listing of Masood Azhar, the founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, as a global terrorist at the United Nations. Is that the case?" she asked the Saudi foreign minister.

"We believe that any person who is implicated in terrorism or the financing of terorrism ought to be not only listed, [but] ought to be tried, convicted and punished. This is what we do in Saudi Arabia. This is what we expect other countries to do.

"With regards to the listing issue, originally it had to do with the financial issues that involve FATF. And then I guess FATF was taken out and then it read like this. And so I don't believe it pertains specifically to the issue you mentioned. Our policy on listing individuals is very clear," he asserted.

"If somebody is engaged in terrorism, if somebody belongs to a terrorist organisation that is responsible for the murder of people, if somebody finances terrorism or recruits for terrorism, that person is implicated in terrorism and ought to be punished and if you can't capture that person, he or she ought to be designated so that they cannot roam the world freely and when they are captured, they are brought to justice," Al-Jubeir further remarked.

He was then asked if Masood Azhar is "a fit case to be designated a global terrorist".

Al-Jubeir said that he did not have any background to pass judgement on the issue and that normally countries bring forward evidence first and make designations which are assessed by individuals at the United Nations.

The interviewer then took the opportunity to ask if the issue of the provision of evidence was brought up in the delegation-level talks held between the two sides.

"Yes, our colleagues in India have mentioned this to us. We have security channels through which such information is exchanged and I expect that this information will be exchanged," said the foreign minister.

He, however, proceeded to say: "We have also heard from the other side [Pakistan] that 'We are not involved in this. This was something outside [our knowledge] ... we don't know who did it ... we have no control over this organisation.'"

The interviewer also asked if a message was conveyed to the Pakistani leadership to act against certain groups, given the tensions with India.

"We have been saying to our friends in Pakistan that they have to act against groups for more than 15 years. To their credit they have worked in the tribal areas ... they have lost a huge number of soldiers going after the terrorist groups in the tribal areas so their view is that they have made a great sacrifice and that they are doing all they can to go after the terrorists," he said in recognition of the efforts the Pakistan Army has made to combat terrorism in the region.

"We stand ready to provide support. I believe other countries stand ready to provide support, whether in the West or in the region. I believe the objective is to eliminate terrorist groups wherever they may exist," he remarked.

The foreign minister was also asked whether he thinks India needs to provide more evidence to the international community on the involvement of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Masood Azhar in the Pulwama attack.

"I think we are in discussions with India on this and I think the Indian government is in discussions with other members of the international community as well as international organisations on this and I believe it is an ongoing dialogue," he responded.