History shows that Pakistan has been rolling out various red carpets to its royal and state guests both in different political lengths, widths and magnitudes in accordance with the importance of the visitor Periodically, however, such red carpets were outmatched by some other countries like India and Afghanistan; sometimes because the competitor countries were able to extend a red carpet longer than that of Pakistan, and for the other that Pakistan could not measure its limits and restraints as were required by the situation.

Interestingly, every time Pakistan was set out to roll out carpet for any international visitor, it got linked with his or her visit to India, Pakistan’s traditional rival. In the near past, we have observed Bush’s and Obama’s visits to both Pakistan and India, which is now being replicated by Mohammad Bin Salman’s (MBS) visit first to Pakistan and then to India. It is, perhaps, ironically returned by Pakistan by its practice of visiting China first which is necessarily followed by the US, especially in sensitive situations.

Beyond this, the question that arises is what objectives Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) intend to achieve out of this visit from their respective perspectives? Amongst nations nothing but their “interest” stands supreme among their foes or friends. For KSA, prima facie, the financial interest may be investments in projects like an oil refinery at Gawadar, which is planned to be pipelined to the Chinese from Gawadar to Xinxiang and hence it has potential to open its financial avenues in China in the wake of CPEC. Similarly, UAE, which was once a stiff competitor or opponent to the Gawadar port, has also turned out to be “interested” in investment in CPEC.

However, security seems more to be a vital concern for KSA rather than the financial. KSA has been facing security threats from the spill-over of the incidents like Tahrir Squire and threats from the Houthis of Yemen besides strained relations with Iran. The newly created Islamic NATO called Islamic Force is obviously being organised under the leadership of a Pakistani commander, meanwhile many trainings are being provided to the Saudi and Islamic Force as in the past. More security personnel are being offered by Pakistan to the KSA and Islamic Force. Pakistan is a nuclear force and carries the potential to offer any support, not only to the KSA, but to other Muslims states in the Middle East like Qatar and Bahrain in the event of any threat from any quarters, state or non-state elements like Daesh.

Admittedly, Pakistan may benefit from the Kingdom’s wealth in stabilising its monetary resources as well as US$10 billion investment in energy sector, but the security oriented initiative is rather more pivotal for Pakistan as well. The reception under escort of F-16 & JF Thunder aircrafts by the host and the composition of the Crown delegation also reflects its dominant security nature, with more than 300 delegates from amongst the members of Islamic Force, royal family members and the royal security guards, and 36 businessmen only. Balance of convenience lies in favour of security concerns for Pakistan than the financial which of course is inherently embedded under such relationship of interest and geo-strategic importance.

The thesis of its being more a security concern for Pakistan than financial is further supported by the argument of KSA’s influence over Taliban, Qatar, UAE and above all Afghanistan government for its being a spiritual head of the Muslim countries by virtue of Harmain, the Houses of God and the Prophet (PBUH) as their central spiritual places. KSA, thus, can play indirectly an effective role in fostering negotiations between US and Taliban to broker peace in Afghanistan subject to withdrawal of permission to Daesh for use of Afghan land against US or any other country.

An intricate question further arises as to whether any peace agreement could be reached or implemented without Afghan government’s being party to any such terms reached on its back? In Geneva Accord in 1988, Afghan government and Pakistan were parties with US and USSR as guarantor sans Mujahideen and today Taliban and the US are parties sans Afghan government which may not lead to meaningful and durable peace in the region like in the past. Thus, if truly played diplomatically, Pakistan can make use of KSA’s influence in winning Afghan government to its favour not only to achieve peace in Afghanistan and its bordering provinces Baluchistan and KPK.

If the visit is gauged on the touch stone of SWOT analysis, Iranian interest and stakes have to be taken care of subtly and delicately. Admittedly, KSA & Iran have historical mutual irritants besides being on the two opposite extremes, with the former being a pro-US and the latter being an anti-US state. Impartiality stands the cardinal factor for Pakistan so far in determination of its support towards KSA or Iran in any event of disputes between them. Pakistan has passed through an ordeal while deciding the question of sending its forces to defend KSA against Houthis of Yemen or not in the previous PML (N) government. Although, Pakistan finally decided to keep itself aloof from the incident on public pressure – which obviously was not much liked by the Kingdom with regards to the then PML (N) leadership – but it provided a great opportunity to the PTI opposition to appease the Kingdom by way of criticising the government in the Parliament, which, perhaps, has borne fruit for PTI government and the state today by having Crown prince in the town. Thus Pakistan, somehow, seems to be a lucky state so far which gains geo-strategic importance sometimes accidently either by unity of the political forces or even by disunity of the political forces in Pakistan. Interestingly, if Pakistan can reap fruits of its internal disunity, imagine what miracles its unity can bring in for the state. However, non-involvement or non-participation of the opposition in the recent visit is bound to render its non-parliamentary and non-nationalistic characteristic in the long run.