Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the country’s intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, have traveled to Riyadh to try to allay the concerns of the Saudi leadership.
When Imran Khan came to power two years ago, Saudi Arabia pledged 6 billion to help alleviate Pakistan’s economic woes. The general view is that General Bajwa played a key role in making this funding possible.
But critics say Imran Khan’s policy toward Saudi Arabia was ambiguous. According to them, when Pakistan talked about mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it would give the impression of challenging Saudi Arabia along with Turkey and Malaysia. The latest tensions erupted when Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi criticized Riyadh over the Kashmir crisis.
The question is, what does Saudi Arabia really want from Pakistan? Dr. Bakari Najamuddin from the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad is of the opinion that Pakistan should take a clear anti-Iranian stance. “Saudi Arabia’s current leadership has taken a hard line on a number of issues and is actively seeking to increase its influence,” he told that The biggest problem is Iran. So they definitely want Pakistan to stand with Saudi Arabia against Iran. “But it is very difficult for Islamabad to do that.”
He said relations between the two countries would not be as good as they used to be: “We should not expect generosity from Saudi Arabia, but it is possible that Riyadh will take more drastic measures against Pakistan.” .
Retired General Ghulam Mustafa, a defense analyst, stated: “Saudi Arabia may hope that we have adopted an anti-Iran policy, but Pakistan cannot take an anti-Iranian approach. “Even during the Iran-Iraq war, our policy was neutral and Pakistan will still want to keep its policy neutral.”
Some analysts believe that the relationship is not as bad as it used to be. Gen. Amjad Shoaib, a defense expert, said the issue was being raised by elements who were upset with Foreign Minister Shah Mohammad Qureshi over why he had been appointed.
According to Amjad Shoaib, it is not true that Saudi Arabia has withdrawn 1 billion from Pakistan out of anger: “Saudi Arabia’s economy is in trouble. So if Riyadh demanded the money back from us, that’s fine. “It is our friendly country and we must understand it.”
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal from the International Department of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad predicts that relations between the two countries will improve.
Courtesy DW Poshto