ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday hoped for “a comprehensive strategic partnership” with Saudi Arabia after receiving a call from Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman on his re-election.

“Grateful for the telephone call from His Royal Highness Prince Moham­med bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on my re-election,” Mr Sharif said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

“Conveyed my sincerest wishes and prayers for the health and well-being of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz,” he said. “Look forward to working closely with HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform the deep-rooted, historic fraternal Pakistan-Saudi Arabia ties into a comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Crown Prince Salman called to congratulate PM Sharif on assuming office. He had earlier sent his gre­etings after Mr Sharif was elected prime minister.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have long shared a multifaceted relationship rooted in mutual economic interests, strategic military cooperation, and shared Islamic heritage.

Historically, these ties have encompassed economic assistance, energy supplies and military collaboration, with Saudi Arabia being a significant source of financial aid and oil for Pakistan.

The military aspect of their relationship includes defence cooperation, training and joint exercises.

Over the years, this relationship has evolved into strategic ties, reflecting deeper cooperation not just in traditional areas but also in counterterrorism efforts, regional stability and political support on international platforms. This transformation signified a broadening of their partnership to include not just economic and military dimensions but also diplomatic and regional security interests.

During the conversation, Prime Minister Sharif told Prince Salman that “Pakistan was proud of its historic, deep-rooted and fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia and the two countries had always stood together through thick and thin”.

He lauded Saudi Arabia for its unwavering commitment and support to Pakistan.

Mr Sharif’s aspiration for “comprehensive strategic ties” with Saudi Arabia likely implies a desire to further deepen and broaden this partnership beyond its current scope. This could involve enhancing economic ties through increased Saudi investment in Pakistan, particularly in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, and tourism, which are pivotal for Pakistan’s economic recovery and growth.

Additionally, it may entail closer collaboration in regional security initiatives, counterterrorism efforts, and political support on critical issues affecting the Muslim world.

The prime minister also invited the Saudi crown prince to undertake an official visit to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2024

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