The relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are considered too important to fail. Both countries have enjoyed bilateral ties since decades and cannot be sabotaged by vested interests.
As relations soured between the two nations in recent, the army chief jetted to Saudi Arabia along with the ISI chief to smoothen relations. General Bajwa is credited with strengthening Pakistan’s ties with neighbouring and other friendly countries which had worsened in recent years and the country was facing diplomatic isolation. Now the army chief has come to the rescue again to mend ties and remove any misunderstanding.
The latest diplomatic row comes after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made an unusual outburst and showed his frustration over the failure of the Saudi-led OIC to convene a session on Kashmir. He hinted Pakistan may head in a different direction if Saudi Arabia doesn’t raise the Kashmir issue and condemn Indian atrocities.
The foreign minister received flak for his callous remarks and a speculative media claiming that Saudi Arabia will stop economic support. In the past two years, the prime minister has made numerous trips to Saudi Arabia to secure a bailout and avert a balance of payment crisis. Saudi has always been at the forefront and provided Pakistan the facility to purchase oil on deferred payments.
Pakistan simply cannot afford to worsen ties with Saudi Arabia, not just due to political clout of religious significance but also economic support. The Saudi realise this and want Pakistan to reduce the insistence on holding an OIC summit on Kashmir. For Pakistan, it was a rather bold move to issue a statement against the Gulf country showing the changing geopolitical landscape.
Pakistan also needs to realise whether the OIC session on Kashmir is worth the relations with Saudi Arabia. A moot is unlikely to achieve much than mere statements. It is unlikely to lead to the freedom of Kashmir or stop the Indian atrocities. The government needs a lot of prodding to weigh in the pros and cons of upsetting the Saudis.
A question arises whether Imran Khan is able to handle the Saudis who have backed him. It is for this reason that General Bajwa – the man for all seasons – is in Riyadh to smoothen differences if any. Pakistan claims there is no animosity and just misunderstanding but eventually will realise that it is not in a position to have bitter ties with the Saudis.