Enduring but not immutable

A recent analysis of the relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia by RUSI bears careful reading


Editorial June 21, 2018

A recent analysis of the relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) bears careful reading. The analysis is wide-ranging taking in financial and military ties and noting that this is a relationship unlike any other between two countries in that it was not ratified by a treaty, instead relying on the personal relations between the Saudi royal family and whoever is prime minister of Pakistan at any given time. Cordial as they may be, and mostly unaffected by the decision of Pakistan to remain neutral in the Saudi war with Yemen, all relationships evolve over time and this is no exception becoming more strategic for both countries.

The military ties are old, going back into the 1960s when Pakistan helped Saudi Arabia build its armed forces, and Pakistan trainers are still working in KSA. The quid-pro-quo is the inflow of KSA investments which have extended beyond the commercial into large sums to be spent on humanitarian earthquake and flood relief. Two delegations from KSA exploring trade investments and military ties have solidified the strategic partnership with intelligence sharing to combat terrorism an agenda item. All of the above is taking place against the backdrop of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 that aims to reform the conservative kingdom.

The recent surfacing of a statement made in June 2017 by Prince Muhammed bin Salman to the effect that Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis ‘are our slaves’ is a stone in the tranquil pool that the KSA government could well do without, and they are of course closely observant of the growing Chinese influence on Pakistan via CPEC particularly the development of Gwadar port and the opportunities this opens up for KSA. Pakistan has wisely covered its back with the Iranians as well as protecting its interests with KSA. Nothing is forever in international relations as President Trump demonstrates daily. Pakistan and KSA are still friends, and there will come a day when nobody will want to buy KSA oil.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2018.

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