FM rejects impression of rift in Pak-Saudi relations

Published August 25, 2020
“We are discussing various proposals about how to take the Kashmir issue forward [at OIC],” Qureshi said. — DawnNewsTV
“We are discussing various proposals about how to take the Kashmir issue forward [at OIC],” Qureshi said. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday rejected the impression of a breakdown in Pak-Saudi ties, saying they were “long-standing” and “people-centric”.

Speaking at a media conference at the Foreign Office, Mr Qureshi said the relationship between the two countries was strong and would continue to remain so. He specially recalled the commonality of the positions of the two countries on Kashmir and Palestine disputes.

This was Mr Qureshi’s first media conference since his remarks on a television talk show earlier this month about the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) set off speculations about a possible rift in relations with the kingdom because of its perceived reluctance in allowing a meeting of the ‘Council of Foreign Ministers’ of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries on Kashmir.

Read: Qureshi asks OIC to stop dragging feet on Kashmir meeting

Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa visited Riyadh on a day-long trip on Aug 17. The visit, the ISPR had said, was for a military dialogue, but it is believed that the two sides also discussed the controversy caused by Mr Qureshi’s remarks.

Says ties between Islamabad and Riyadh are long-standing, people-centric

There has been a visible change in the tone of the Foreign Office since Gen Bajwa’s visit. Praise for OIC’s role on Kashmir, especially its resolutions and meetings of the contact group on Kashmir, is quite pronounced. There is no more mention of Pakistan’s desire for a meeting of the foreign ministers of OIC member states.

“We are discussing various proposals about how to take the Kashmir issue forward [at OIC],” Mr Qureshi, who had on Aug 5 threatened in his TV comments to convene a meeting of Muslim countries outside the OIC, said while emphasising that neither the OIC’s position on Kashmir had any ambiguity nor had the Saudi position on the dispute changed.

The minister did not make any direct reference to his earlier comments, but at one point clarified that it was normal to have expectations in relationships. “Since Pak-Saudi ties are strong, people have expectations from them on Kashmir, which they keep expressing,” he maintained.

Talking about the United Arab Emirates’ accord with the United States and Israel for normalisation of ties with the Zionist state, he said that every country was entitled to take its own decisions, but the dominant view in the Muslim world on relations with Israel and the Palestine dispute remained unchanged. In this regard, he referred to the position taken by Saudi Arabia, which too has linked creation of a viable Palestinian state to normalisation of ties with Israel.

‘Peaceful resistance’

The foreign minister said “a peaceful resistance” had begun in occupied Kashmir against Indian government’s Aug 5, 2019 move to end the valley’s autonomy and special status, with the formation of an alliance between pro-India Kashmiri parties for challenging the Indian actions.

Representatives of six political parties in occupied Jammu and Kashmir had on Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to working for restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.

Mr Qureshi said it was a big thing that the pro-India parties were no more looking towards Delhi, adding that a joint statement by the Kashmiri parties was the first manifestation of an emerging political resistance movement and that people had rebelled. “This would strengthen our diplomatic outreach on Kashmir,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2020

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