Saudi crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al Saud visited Pakistan on a three day visit. The Prince holds two important portfolios as the deputy Prime Minister as well as Defense Minister. After his visit to Pakistan he also visited India. Pakistan has excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia as it supported us economically and diplomatically in the nuclear test in 1998.

The recent visit between Pakistan and Saudi officials conducted discussions on energy, trade and security issues particularly agreeing on exchange of visits by military personnel for training and joint ventures in defense production. During his visit to India a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) on Defense cooperation was signed in New Delhi. This is marked as the highest level visit by a Saudi officials to New Delhi since 2006. According to Livemint, the MoU “will allow exchange of defense-related information, military training and education as well as cooperation in areas varying from hydrography and security to logistics.”

Despite the worthy affiliation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the new relationship between India and Saudi Arabia cannot be ignored. The most crucial reason for this is given as Saudi Arabia’s feeling of betrayal towards US, under whose umbrella it had been feeling secure for decades. US-Iran rapprochement after Iran’s nuclear deal and advancement in their relationship spurred Saudi Arabia to move towards South Asian region.

This could be a favorable opportunity for India and Pakistan if balance can be maintained by Saudi Arabia in relationships between both countries, if not then it will enhance the existing tensions. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest Indian and third largest Pakistan expatriate community. Saudi Arabia is the largest source of petroleum for Pakistan whereas India is the fifth largest market for Saudi exports. Trade between India and Saudi Arabia is estimated to be $32 billion for the period April-November of 2013 alone.

India is heavily dependent for energy on Iran and after US graced Iran in easing sanctions, it is now able to pursue its pending projects to completion and to maintain strong economic ties with India. Similarly both Pakistan and Iran are most likely to complete their IP gas pipeline project within three years though international sanctions on Iran and Saudi Arabia’s pressure not to carry the project are the two underlying obstacles.

SYEDA TAZEEN KIRMANI,

Rawalpindi, March 4.