Brazilian lyricist and writer Paulo Coelho de Souza said” Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest…it’s about who came and never left”. This adage truly fits the relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The exemplary friendship between them far transcends the realm of normal diplomatic relations and perhaps would require a special terminology to explain its true nature and depth. Saudi Arabia has always stood by Pakistan in times of crisis and adversity and Pakistan has also lent unqualified support to the Saudi causes.

In the backdrop of the current financial crisis facing Pakistan Saudi Arabia like in the past has once again come forth to winch Pakistan out of a difficult situation. As a consequence of the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia it promised a package of $ 6 billion comprising $ 3billion as balance of payment support for one year which will be deposited in Pakistan’s account and supply of $ 3 billion worth of oil on deferred payment for three years. The Saudi leaders also confirmed interest in setting up oil refinery at Gawadar as well as development of mineral resources which will entail considerable direct Saudi investment in Pakistan.

Reportedly the Kingdom envisages to invest $ 10 billion and the agreements to that effect will be signed during the ensuring visit to Pakistan by the crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman. The Saudi commitment will surely go a long way in rectifying the perilous economic situation that Pakistan is confronted with at the moment. It will also enable Pakistan to negotiate with IMF for a possible extended fund facility with greater confidence. The Saudi assistance will also neutralize to some extent the US pressure on Pakistan which it has been trying to exert through suspension of security assistance and coalition support fund.

Perhaps it would be pertinent to have a cursory glance at the history of relationship between the two countries. In the seventies when Pakistan needed to rebuild its economy in the backdrop of war with India the late King of Saudi Arabia Shah Faisal extended liberal help besides importing labour from Pakistan which contributed immensely towards correcting the economic aberrations.

In the late eighties and early nineties also the Saudis helped Pakistan in tiding over the febrile economy. Be it the devastating earth quake that struck Besham in Northern Areas in 1974, the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir or the floods that hit Pakistan inflicting wide spread destruction, the Saudis have been in the forefront to help Pakistan. The Saudi leaders as custodians of the holy places of Islam are held in the highest esteem by the people of Pakistan as well as its leaders and by virtue of their unique status and the reverence that they enjoy, they have many a times also helped in resolving political feuds within Pakistan, as its true friends

In the wake of the spiraling prices of oil in the international market in the later part of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008, Pakistan was adversely affected as it had to bear the burden of 40% increase in its oil bill that further exacerbated the already volatile economic situation. The Saudi government offered one year credit facility on the pattern of 1998 when after the nuclear explosion, the US had imposed economic sanctions against Pakistan. The Kingdom approved the continuation of an arrangement stared in 1998 for delivery of free crude oil to Pakistan which imported 250000 barrel of oil per day from the Kingdom. The Saudi loan of US$ 2 billion was also converted into a grant.

Pakistan on its part has always stood by the Saudis in regards to their global and regional interests and played a friendly role in defusing threatening situations. In early April 2012 Pakistan played a role in defusing tension between Iran and Saudia Arabia over Bahrain. On the situation in Yemen and threats to Saudi territorial integrity Pakistan has shown complete solidarity with Saudi Arabia and vowed to defend the holy land at all costs if it was attacked. Former Army Chief of Pakistan General Raheel Sharif is currently heading the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition also formerly referred to as the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism comprising 41 participant countries from the Islamic world. The organization aims to coordinate efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt Afghanistan and threats to territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. In the current volatile situation in the Middle East and its fall out for Saudi Arabia, Pakistani support to the Saudi rulers is pivotal to the ability of the Kingdom to ward off those dangers.

Pakistan Army contributed to the establishment of Saudi armed forces in 1960. It assisted the Royal Saudi Air Force with the introduction of their first fighter jets. There are over 1200 Pakistani trainers in various Saudi security and military establishments, either under the ministry of interior or the armed forces.

The relations between the two countries have now moved into the domain of strategic partnership in view of the prevailing volatile situation in the Middle East and the gulf region as well as Saudi eagerness to implement Vision 2030. A London based security think tank Royal United Services Institute corroborated this fact by maintaining that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had deepened and were heading in a direction where they are becoming more institutionalised increasingly addressing strategic interests of both the countries.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia seem to have agreed on pursuing an interdependent security policy which does not infringe upon either’s relations with other countries. Pakistan is rightly engaged in improving its relations with Iran however it has made it clear that it supported Saudi interests in guarding against Iranian interference in Gulf Security and Kingdom’s internal security.

Notwithstanding the fact that Saudi Arabia is also trying to build strategic relations with India, it has invariably supported Pakistani stance on Kashmir at the global forums including the OIC. Presently the two countries are also engaged in further bolstering defence ties, sharing intelligence in the field of combat against terrorism and formation of strategic groups to handle the future development of relations. General Bajwa also visited Saudi Arabia last year and discussed bilateral military relations with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who is also the defence minister of Saudi Arabia, with particular focus on how to strengthen and develop military training, joint exercises and the exchange of military expertise. The analysts believe that the visit was of great significance in regards to security situation in the region and further strengthening of military relations between the two countries. The foregoing facts prove it beyond any iota of doubt that the relations between the two countries notwithstanding rapid changes in the geo-political and security situation in the Middle East are poised to gain strength with every passing day. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are indispensable for each other and the leaders of the two countries and their people understand that imperative unambiguously.