Nothing is truer about friendship than what Collins, the famed literary critic said, “in prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.” Since the conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 1951, the Kingdom has, time and again, stood by us through the most difficult periods in our history.

The fraternal ties existing for almost seven decades between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia cannot just be viewed in the usual perspective of inter-state relations in the Post-Westphalian Nation-State system. The relationship is firmly rooted in shared religion, values and culture. It is imbued with mutual respect and nurtured by close cooperation and collaboration at bilateral and multilateral levels for decades. It is true that no two countries can ever hold identical views on all issues. But it is also a fact that very rarely do any two countries maintain as close a relationship as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, regardless of the challenges thrown at them over the last sixty eight years. Our friendship has not only withstood political fluxes at the global and regional level, it has emerged through them stronger and ever-more purposeful.Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy commonality of views on many regional and global political issues. Our deep and close bilateral cooperation also extends to close ties in the fields of security and defense, counterterrorism, investment, trade, culture, human resource and religious affairs. Our partnership at the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been exemplary. We have leveraged our collaboration to champion the cause of Muslim Ummah at the global stage.

However, of late, there has been a new and welcome impetus in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. This momentum has been generated by a joint desire of the leadership of the two countries to translate their ever-existent goodwill into tangible cooperation – an aspiration to work together for the betterment of their peoples. There is an inimitable synergy among the leaders of the two countries – the goodwill between His Majesty King Salman and President Arif Alvi, and the visionary approach of Prime Minister Imran Khan and His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. His Majesty King Salman was among the first global leaders who congratulated the Prime Minister on his election, inviting him to visit Saudi Arabia. The Prime Minister reciprocated with his maiden visit in September 2018, and then again in October 2018 at the special invitation of the Crown Prince. The Prime Minister’s efforts were matched in kind by His Royal Highness Muhammad bin Salman - the energetic, dynamic and young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who is set to visit Pakistan.

Since the first visit of the Prime Minister, the two countries identified key areas of mutual cooperation and agreed to produce results within a short time. While the media focused more on the valuable assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to support Pakistan’s balance of payment issue, the main purpose of collaboration was to enhance bilateral investment ties, enhance trade and commerce, facilitate travel between the two countries, develop cooperation in energy production, further strengthen bilateral defense ties and create mutually beneficial environment for human resource utilisation. The aims also included addressing issues pertaining to Pakistani expatriates in the Kingdom, who have contributed immensely to the development of the two countries, and continue to act as a bridge between the two friends. We are quite confident that the results of our efforts will soon bear fruit.

People often ask me what is new in the recent surge in Pakistan-Saudi Arabia bilateral ties. I often say; nothing and everything. Nothing; because the relationship has always been diverse, robust and friendly. Everything; because of the purposefulness of cooperation, the focus on mutually beneficial and tangible outcomes and the structured manner of follow-up mechanism. I believe this has been achieved because of the sincerity of the leadership of our two countries to the betterment of their people and their commitment to the development and progress of their countries. They are fully aware of the need to promote peace and security through development in their countries. They are also cognizant that peace and security abroad will enable them to focus on development and prosperity within their countries.

And to those who cannot see beyond the realm of realism, I can only narrate Khalil Gibran, who said “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity”.

 

Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi

The writer is the Foreign Minister of Pakistan and the current Senior Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He is a prominent politician and an agriculturist by profession.

 

Since the first visit of the Prime Minister, the two countries identified key areas of mutual cooperation and agreed to produce results within a short time”.