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Pakistan-Saudi relations

The recent telephone conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman will further strengthen relations between the two countries. Though officially it was stated that “bilateral cooperation and the Covid-19 situation” were discussed, it is safe to assume that attempts were made to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s relationship has endured through all sorts of civilian and military setups of the past, and the current PTI government, despite minor hiccups, has maintained a seemingly cordial rapport with an old ally. However, problems related to financial aid and regional politics, both of which go hand in hand to an extent, remain unresolved.

The PTI government received a bridge loan of $3 billion to beef up foreign exchange reserves and another $3.2 billion as an oil credit facility back in late 2018. Both debt collections have coincided with Pakistan refusing to take sides in any of Saudi Arabia’s many regional conflicts.

Exactly a year ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan had to face severe embarrassment when he cancelled a confirmed trip to Malaysia on Saudi Arabia’s insistence, for a summit challenging the OIC. Financial dependence on one country should not influence foreign relations with others. The relationship was also jolted in 2015 when — against presumed Saudi wishes — parliament voted against entering the Yemen war.

Now, Pakistan should, by all means, work towards improving and strengthening the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Pakistan must work hard to stabilise its internal economic and political situation so that both friends and foes are unable to exploit its weaknesses.