• Pakistan, Saudi Arabia form council to boost collaboration
• Army chief discusses regional security with Prince Salman
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Friday renewed pledge to enhance cooperation between the two countries in different fields.
The reaffirmation to boost the bilateral ties came during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s official visit to Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Khan arrived at Jeddah Airport on a three-day official visit. It is the prime minister’s third official visit to Saudi Arabia since he came to power in 2018.
The prime minister was warmly received by Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
Earlier in the day, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held meetings with the Saudi leaders.
According to an agreement signed after the prime minister’s arrival, the two sides decided to form a ‘Supreme Coordination Council’ to have close coordination between the two states.
Besides, five Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were inked in the fields of economic cooperation, strategic partnership, trade, investment, energy, environment and media partnership.
Soon after Mr Khan’s arrival, the crown prince took him to Royal Palace where he hosted a reception in honour of the prime minister.
Following a one-on-one meeting with Prince Salman, a delegation-level meeting started between the two sides. The talks covered bilateral cooperation including economy, trade, investment, energy and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and welfare of Pakistani diaspora in the Kingdom.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Senator Faisal Javed, the prime minister arrived in the Kingdom at the invitation of the Saudi crown prince.
During the visit, the prime minister will meet the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the World Muslim League Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. He will interact with the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah.
He will also perform Umrah and pay his respects at the Roza-e-Rasool (Peace be Upon Him) in Madina Munawwara.
The prime minister’s visit is preceded by talks between the Pakistani and Saudi military leadership during which they discussed bilateral cooperation for regional peace and security.
The discussions were held during Gen Bajwa’s meetings with the Saudi crown prince and Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman.
Gen Bajwa is on a four-day visit to Saudi Arabia.
The focus of the discussions during the army chief’s visit, according to the statements issued by both sides, has been on regional security.
Gen Bajwa, according to an ISPR statement, reassured the Saudi leadership of Pakistan’s resolute “commitment to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of KSA and defence of the two Holy Mosques”.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have longstanding military ties governed by a bilateral security cooperation agreement of 1982 under which Pakistan assists the kingdom in military training and defence production capabilities. Pakistani troops have, moreover, been stationed in Saudi Arabia in training and advisory role.
“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including recent developments in Afghan peace process, bilateral defence, security, collaboration for regional peace and connectivity were discussed,” the ISPR said about the COAS meeting with the Saudi crown prince.
MbS was quoted by the ISPR as having “acknowledged” Pakistan’s role for regional peace and stability. “The relations between KSA and Pakistan are based on bonds of brotherhood and mutual trust and both nations will continue to play their part for peace, stability and betterment of Muslim Ummah,” MbS was quoted as having further said.
Saudi Press Agency, meanwhile, said during the meeting MbS and Gen Bajwa discussed bilateral military and defence cooperation and ways to enhance it. A number of issues of “common concern”, SPA said, were also discussed.
The meeting was on the Saudi side attended by Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, National Security Adviser Dr Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, General Intelligence President Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Malki.
The army chief, according to SPA, also separately met the deputy defence minister. The two sides, it said, discussed ways for enhancing cooperation in maintenance of security and stability, besides issues of common interest.
Deputy Minister Khalid later said on Twitter that he had an “excellent” meeting with Gen Bajwa. He said the two sides affirmed their two countries’ “goal to preserve regional peace and stability”.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Prime Minister Khan enjoyed good personal relations with the Saudi leadership, based on mutual love and brotherhood.
“We are looking towards the Saudi leadership on the Kashmir issue. Saudi Arabia can play an important role in resolving the Kashmir issue,” he said.
He said the prime minister had expressed his desire for ending the regional dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
He said Prime Minister Khan would play his part regarding the recent statement of the Saudi crown prince about talks with Iran.
“We acknowledge the services of the Saudi leadership for the Islamic world and would like to know how Pakistan can facilitate the dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had a long and historic defense relationship.
According to media reports, Pakistani-Saudi relations have been complex all along but since 2015, when the Pakistani parliament restricted the military from participating in the war in Yemen, its relations with Saudi Arabia have soured. Military conflict in Yemen is said to be one of the reasons behind strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Last year, Pakistan had expected Riyadh to support it in dealing with India over the Kashmir crisis. In particular, Pakistan had sought a supportive meeting with the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC. After Saudi Arabia turned down the request, Pakistan repeated its demand, which in turn resulted in Riyadh calling for repayment of $1 billion loan. Consequently, Pakistan repaid the loan while using the amount obtained under a new loan — this time from China.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2021