ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa on Monday reached Saudi Arabia and held meetings with the kingdom’s top military leadership.
“COAS met His Excellency General (Staff) Fayiadh bin Ha’med Al-Rowaily, Chief of General Staff, and His Royal Highness Lieutenant General (Staff) Fahad bin Turki Al Saud Commander Joint Forces, KSA,” ISPR said about Gen Bajwa’s trip.
“Military to military ties including training exchanges were focus of the meetings,” the ISPR explained.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have longstanding military ties, which are governed by a bilateral security cooperation agreement of 1982, under which Pakistan assists the kingdom in training and defence production capabilities. Pakistani troops have, moreover, been stationed in Saudi Arabia in training and advisory role.
However, Gen Bajwa’s current visit is taking place at an important juncture. The United Arab Emirates had last week reached an agreement with Israel and the United States to normalise ties with the Jewish state. Reportedly more Arab countries would be joining the Emiratis in normalising ties with Israel. Pakistan too, many believe, would face pressures to take position on Israel ties.
Moreover, the army chief ’s visit is being viewed in the context of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s criticism of the Saudi Arabia-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for not convening the meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir. However, a Pakistani military spokesman had earlier said the visit had been planned long before the controversy erupted.
Gen Bajwa’s trip, analysts say, would also try to overcome the minor hiccup in ties caused by the foreign minister’s statement.
ISPR Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar had last Thursday, while responding to queries about the controversial remarks, said: “There is no need to raise questions about these (Pak-Saudi) ties.” He said there could be “no doubt about the centrality of KSA in Muslim world”.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2020