Pak-Saudi relations have seen many challenges and both brothers have withstood and weathered them together with perseverance and a shared vision. Pak-Saudi relations are unique and go beyond common interstate relations and are deeply rooted and entrenched in multifarious dimensions of history, faith, security, economics and a shared vision of development and quest for regional and international peace.

In the overall context, Pakistan’s place in the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is guided by the global Islamic fraternity and brotherhood, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is recognised as the fountainhead of OIC’s very existence. The people of Pakistan hold Saudi Arabia and Khadim-e-Harmain Sharifain in the highest esteem and seek guidance from the Saudi leadership on challenges confronting the Ummah.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are connected through an umbilical cord of mutual respect and fraternity. Without going into the details of a shared history, it may be pertinent to remind ourselves with highlights of the Pak-Saudi relationship.

Warm relations have existed since 1947 and are rooted in centuries old Islamic ideals, cultural and economic links. Both countries have succeeded in developing a unique synergy for joint development. Pakistan is the only country founded on Islamic identity. KSA, as the birthplace of the Prophet (PBUH) and home to Islam’s holiest sites, has a special place in the hearts of the people of Pakistan. The constitutions of both countries are based on the Quran and Sunnah.

The history of relations goes back decades as the Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1951. From then on, both countries have never looked back and built upon it through close cooperation in political, security and religious affairs. Saudi, GCC and OIC support on Kashmir has remained a cornerstone of this growing relationship.

There is a special position and place of the royal family as custodians of the two holy mosques in Pakistan and its people, this faith-based attachment allows the people of Pakistan to seek guidance and exchange ideas with religious scholars of the Kingdom. The defence of KSA and the two holy mosques is part of our faith and considered obligatory, without any question.

Politically, the Pak-Saudi bond has strengthened above personalities and governments. In order to express this bond, Lyallpur was named Faisalabad to honour King Faisal. Economic relations stemming from this unique relationship have made KSA the largest oil supplier of Pakistan (over 50%). Post the 1998 nuclear tests, KSA provided free and uninterrupted oil for four years. The Kingdom also supplied oil on deferred payment for one year in 2019-20.

The Pakistani diaspora in Saudi Arabia is over two million strong and contributes remittances to the tune of 5 billion dollars every year. In times of crisis and financial difficulties, KSA has never shied away from supporting their Pakistani brothers and sisters. Whether it be earthquakes, floods or economic challenges, the Saudi royal family has always come forward to support Pakistan.

In the past six years alone, Saudi help in infrastructure development and rescuing Pakistan’s economy remained substantial; KSA’s financial deposits include 1.5 billion dollars in 2014 and three billion dollars in 2018.

KSA has also chipped in developing higher education and madrassa reforms. Recent Infrastructure developments include 100 million dollars for Neelum-Jhelum and millions of dollars for rehabilitation in Malakand, Bajaur, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

KSA has also pledged 21 billion dollars as investment for different projects.

Pakistan’s contribution to Saudi Arabia in diverse fields also needs a mention here. PAF raised the Royal Saudi Air Force in the 1960s and Pakistani pilots flew RSAF fighter jets during KSA’s Al-Wadiah conflict with Yemen (1969). The Pakistan Army played a pivotal role in assisting the Saudi government in suppressing the Grand Mosque Seizure in 1979.

The Pakistani diaspora contributed in building modern Saudi Arabia. Pakistani doctors, engineers, teachers and workers have spent their lifetimes in KSA and contributed immensely to the development and social uplift of the Kingdom. In the field of security, Saudi Arabia has always trusted Pakistan as a brother and comrade. Pakistan contributed 15000 troops for Saudi defence in the 1980s. 13000 Pakistani military troops participated in the first Gulf War; earlier Pakistan Army engineers built fortifications on the KSA-Yemen border.

At present, Pakistan military training mission in KSA is approximately 1700 officers and soldiers; thousands of Royal Saudi Armed forces personnel were trained in Pakistan, and both countries regularly hold joint military exercises in KSA and Pakistan.

The Pakistan-Saudi friendship and strategic partnership has adjusted to the call of time; in the new environment of multi-alignment, no country can operate in the international arena with a black and white foreign policy. The dynamic international and regional environment demands that states should guard their core interests; while carrying friends along through a shared vision.

There is a broad understanding of this aspect in both countries; for example Chinese support in UNSC is considered important for the Kashmir cause, to neutralise India-Israel nexus, similarly Chinese support in infrastructure development/CPEC has become the backbone of Pakistan’s economic development and creation of jobs.

Pakistan’s bilateral relations with Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia and other friendly countries also needs to be understood in the broader framework of multilateralism. Iran and Afghanistan being neighbours, Pakistan needs a stable western border to ensure it can economise on security to look after threats on the eastern border. There are also sensitivities of all sects in Pakistan and internal stability and inter-sect harmony can allow Pakistan to concentrate on economic and social development.

Looking ahead, while Pakistan appreciates historic relations and the role the Saudi leadership has played in the past, it confidently looks forward to Saudi and GCC support in G-20 and FATF to deal with challenges of COVID and oil prices and thanks the royal family for support during trying times and eco-distress.

Our relations with other Muslim countries are based on the principle of global Islamic fraternity in which we hold KSA in the highest esteem. Our strategic compulsions do not allow rifts with neighbours or to be part of any bloc. Pakistan reaffirms unwavering commitment to Saudi security—Pakistan will always remain a reliable security partner of the Kingdom.