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Wednesday September 28, 2022

General Bajwa credited with stabilising relations with Saudi Arabia

August 26, 2020

LONDON: The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the world's oldest defence think tank, has credited General Qamar Javed Bajwa for taking the Saudi–Pakistan relationship out of the personal domain into the institutional and for calming relations between both countries in the recent days.

The analysis says General Bajwa’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week, contrary to media hype, was to reassure the Saudis and continue the defence relationship. General Bajwa and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) have made the relationship more realistic where both countries help each other beyond slogans and history.

The analysis said: “General Bajwa has steered the institutional relationship away from personalities and one-man shows. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has done much the same. This has led to the first-ever private-led investment by a Saudi entity in Pakistan. Seen from this perspective, the $1-billion debt payback demand is a paltry sum, compared to the almost $20-billion private investment into Pakistan.”

The analysis said that General Bajwa has worked to make the close military cooperation develop into a broader corporate relationship on a more equitable basis, rather than one of aid and dependence.

It said: “Bajwa had earlier also fixed Pakistan’s relationship with the UAE which had stalled since Pakistan refused to assist the UAE in military operations in Yemen.

Prior to Bajwa’s visit to the UAE there had been a freeze in all UAE–Pakistan diplomatic activity. Bajwa visited Riyadh immediately after the media uproar and assured the Saudis that there is no danger of any Pakistani participation in the anti-Saudi alliance. The Saudis, to their credit, have also explained to Pakistan that whilst Riyadh supports Pakistan’s Kashmir stance, India is an important economic partner and the Saudis are ready to mediate rather than pressure India.”

It said: “Pakistan also must understand that, just as Kashmir is their jugular vein, Yemen is the Saudi weak spot. Both countries need a realistic perspective on their priorities and security threats. This cannot be a one-way street, especially since Egypt has now arguably replaced Pakistan as Saudi Arabia’s main guarantor for internal and regional security.

Saudi analyst Dr Mohammad Al Sulami who is close to the Royal Court and has visited Pakistan several times, believed Pakistan politicians to hide their own failures over Kashmir were looking for a foreign scapegoat however Saudi stood behind Pakistan. Mohammad bin Salman and Bajwa have brought realism into the relationship, one which goes beyond just slogans of brotherhood and history. And that will be a source of strength for the future of both countries.”

The RUSI analysis stressed that Pakistan’s relation with Saudi Arabia is primarily handled directly by the Pakistan Army and the Saudi King and Crown Prince. “There have been some question marks about this alliance as a result of various regional changes, such as the Qatari, Malaysian and Turkish embrace of Pakistan and the anti-Saudi stance which such realignments may imply. However, despite the hype, there can be no rupture in this alliance.”

The analysis said that the growing Turkish and Malaysian influence on Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has not gone unnoticed in Riyadh.

It said: “Imran Khan has repeatedly said that his political heroes are Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Imran Khan sees Pakistan as a democratic Islamic country and wants to replicate the economic success that underpinned Turkey and Malaysia’s rise. At last year’s UN General Assembly summit, the three leaders decided to launch a joint Islamic platform to counter Islamophobia. This then resulted in a historic summit in Kuala Lumpur which was the first major Islamic conference outside the realms of the Saudi-based OIC. The presence of the Iranian president and the Emir of Qatar at that summit further annoyed the Saudis who perceived the Malaysia summit more as a threat to their leadership than a genuine Islamic forum.

“The Saudis do not object to Pakistan’s bilateral ties with Turkey or Malaysia, however do not want Pakistan to be part of Erdogan’s regional meddling in Arab affairs. Pakistan did not appreciate how acutely sensitive Riyadh may be to fears of Turkish and Qatari animosity towards Riyadh.”

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