Saudi Arabia like a true friend has once again come forth to winch Pakistan out of a difficult economic situation by promising 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 in Pakistan as well as development of mineral resources which will entail considerable direct Saudi investment in Pakistan. The development not only reflects the strength of brotherly relations between the two countries but also a diplomatic triumph for PTI government led by Imran Khan. The Saudis have established their credentials as a real friend.

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 if at all it felt the need for the same. Saudi Arabia has been helping Pakistan in combating terrorism and has already shown interest in investing in CPEC projects.

Another benefit accruing from the Saudi assistance will be that it would neutralise to some extent the US pressure on Pakistan which it was trying to exert through suspension of security assistance and coalition support fund as well as IMF and through other international forums like FATF as a ploy to make Pakistan comply with their demands in regards to situation in Afghanistan. US Secretary of state in a statement on Tuesday said that there was no change in US South Asia policy announced by President Trump and with reference to his meeting with the Pakistani leaders said he hoped that Pakistan would meet the target and would not allow sanctuaries for terrorists.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have enjoyed a special relationship over the years, which has gained strength with every passing day irrespective of the fact whether an elected government was in saddle in Pakistan or a military dictator was calling the shots. Apart from state-to-state relations there was invariably a touch of personal relationship with every ruler in Pakistan. The Pakistani leaders also held the Saudi rulers in the highest esteem and relations with the Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia have been the corner stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan Army contributed to the establishment of Saudi armed forces in 1960. Pakistan 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.

Saudi Arabia has invariably helped Pakistan to tide over economic crisis whenever needed. In the late eighties and early nineties also the Saudis helped Pakistan in arresting the economic melt-down. The Saudis have always stood by Pakistan in every moment of adversity and bailed it out of many tight situations. 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 spiralling 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 in the wake of nuclear explosions; 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.

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 Instituted corroborated this fact in June by maintaining that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had deepened and were heading in a direction where they are becoming more institutionalized increasingly addressing strategic interests of both the countries.

Pakistan was instrumental in defusing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran over crisis in Bahrain in 2012. It supported the Saudi government on the Yemen crisis though it did not become part of the Saudi assault force. It however has given unswerving commitment to the Saudi rulers to defend the territorial integrity of the holy land against any external aggression. Though the Saudis initially expected Pakistan to join the Saudi coalition against Houthies in Yemen who were supported by Iran and felt a little dismayed over her refusal but they ultimately understood the rationale and everything was back to normal.

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 visited Saudi Arabia in February where he 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. No word is however available on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with the crown prince. 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 writer is a freelance columnist.

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.