Indispensable ally

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Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia are multi-faceted, and have a horizon of their own. This is why Prime Minister Imran Khan was all praise for the Saudi leadership for its benevolence and understanding of the socio-economic and geostrategic issues faced by Pakistan, especially in a post-Covid price-spiraling world. He took no qualms in saying that Riyadh’s financial cushion enabled Islamabad to sail through in tough times, and he was referring to the $3 billion cash tranche, and oil supplies on deferred payment worth billions of dollars. He was apt as he reiterated unconditional support to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by unequivocally condemning the Houthi transgression in the region.

A high-powered Saudi delegation led by Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif was on a day-long visit, underscoring the indispensability of bilateralism. Both the countries revisited their resolutions in the domains of beefing investment profiles, easing of travel restrictions, freeing of prisoners’ from Saudi jails, and buoying trade and economic interaction. Likewise, the Kingdom is home to around 2 million Pakistani expatriates, who form the backbone of Pakistan’s forex reserves in terms of remittances. It was agreed to facilitate the diaspora in all possible ways, and it reflected on the importance of Pakistani labour and skilled workforce in the Middle East country. That the delegation met President Arif Alvi, apart from having a major huddle at the Ministry of Interior, before calling on the PM reflected the workaholic agenda at hand, and was an opportunity to minutely streamline cooperation in a befitting manner.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strategic understanding in terms of defence affairs, and this aspect has a sacrosanct meaning as Islamabad is committed to defend the holy lands in case of any eventuality. This is what makes their relations an episode beyond realpolitik. Pakistan recently played host to the Saudi-convened OIC meeting in Islamabad, and this congeniality reflected their concerns for Afghanistan’s rebuilding and humanitarian assistance. The all-weather friendship is free from political narrative, as it has the underlining of being state-centric. This is what makes it paramount for all times to come.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2022.

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