ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan exchanges views with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during a meeting at PM House on Monday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan exchanges views with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during a meeting at PM House on Monday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday held talks for expansion in defence cooperation including the military training programme.

A Saudi delegation led by Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz called on Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters and discussed issues of mutual interest.

Other members of the Saudi delegation include Chief of General Staff (CGS) General Fayiadh bin Hamed bin Raged Al-Rowaily and Defence Minister’s Military Adviser Maj Gen (Engineer) Talal Abdullah Alotaibi.

“During the meeting, views were exchanged on issues of mutual interest, including defence and security cooperation, measures to further enhance bilateral defence collaboration, including Training Exchange Programme and overall regional security situation including situation in IOJ&K,” the Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on the meeting.

PM appreciates growing economic ties between the two countries

It noted that that the two sides agreed that the goodwill between the two countries was being transformed into “enduring partnership”.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have very strong military ties. This cooperation is based on a bilateral security cooperation agreement of 1982, under which Pakistan committed to assisting the kingdom in training and defence production capabilities.

Pakistani troops have been in Saudi Arabia in training and advisory role. Till a few years ago the size of the contingent was around 1,600. However, in 2018 additional troops were deployed, but the numbers were not made public.

During the meeting, Prince Khalid thanked Pakistan for the assistance provided, especially towards training of Royal Saudi Armed Forces both in Pakistan as well as in Saudi Arabia under bilateral training cooperation, the ISPR said.

The Saudi deputy defence minister also assured full support to “Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region”, the ISPR said without elaborating.

Gen Bajwa “thanked visiting dignitary for acknowledging Pakistan Army’s achievements in war against terrorism, sacrifices and contribution for regional peace and stability”, it added.

The Saudi delegation later called on Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“During the meeting, views were exchanged on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues,” the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said.

Mr Khan, on this occasion, recalled close fraternal ties, historic links, support at the grassroots level, and Saudi economic assistance, and appreciated the growing economic ties between the two countries and the Saudi commitment for investments in diverse sectors.

On the situation in Occupied Kashmir, the prime minister pointed to the threat to peace and security posed by the Indian leadership’s belligerent rhetoric and aggressive actions on the ground. He urged the international community, including the Muslim world, to play role in preventing the ongoing atrocities and promoting a peaceful solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Saudi Arabia’s role as an important member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was also discussed, the PMO said.

Mr Khan also dwelt at length about the plight of Indian Muslims after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s anti-minorities legislation and actions including the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

He said the Indian government was engaged in systematic efforts to discriminate against, marginalise and disenfranchise minorities, particularly Muslims.

The prime minister expressed concern over the recent killings of Muslims in New Delhi and the desecration of their places of worship by Hindu extremist groups with the tacit support of the BJP government.

Prince Khalid on this occasion expressed his government’s deep appreciation for the role being played by Pakistan for regional peace and stability including in the Middle East. He said that the Saudi leadership remains committed to further deepening of fraternal ties and multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries. He reaffirmed that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as longstanding partners, would always stand by each other.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also held their bilateral political consultations on Monday in Islamabad.

UAE Assistant Foreign Minister Khalifa Shaheen Khalifa Almarar led the Emirati delegation at the talks at the Foreign Office (FO).

“Fruitful exchanges on Pakistan-UAE relations; dire situation in IOJ&K; Afghan peace and reconciliation process; and peace and stability in Middle East,” FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui tweeted.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020