At one point, when the Pakistani government refused to send troops to Yemen requested by Saudi Arabia, it seemed that relations between the two will remain disagreeable for a long time. However, it was not true.
Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s relations, these days, have reached new heights. Recent developments need a critical review and an analysis about the opportunities and challenges that will occur in the coming time. So to understand clearly the renewed relations between the countries, it is doubtlessly required to revisit their current diplomatic engagement and predict the outcome.
There are many reasons behind the renewed bilateral interactions between both of the countries, the most important of all is the change in leadership. Both Imran Khan and King Mohammed Bin Salman are newly installed leaders who have come up with promise to rebrand or reposition their country’s poor image on socio-economic fronts. Remember, Salman’s vision 2030, which is under implementation, aims to bring socio-economic reforms in the kingdom, similarly PM Imran Khan promised to improve the destitute conditions of Pakistan. Both leaders after being sworn in have announced new internal and foreign policies thus, working round the clock to ameliorate the conditions of their respective countries. The new level of interaction between the two is touching, and is a new phase in their friendship which can be witnessed by the KSA government’s trade agreements made during the recent visit of King MBS to boost relations with Pakistan, for investing $ 20 billion in the country’s energy sector and forming a partnership with Pakistan in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Such a close tie can be viewed as a great opportunity for both, they can reap mutual benefits; yet it also carries cumbersome challenges as well in the shape of internal and external i.e. regional and international politics and diplomacy issues. Both countries, Pak and KSA can develop a Petro-Agri barter business model to maintain the balance of trade. Pakistan’s main exports to Saudi are cereals, textile and meat while imports are petroleum products. A barter agreement can be made in which Pakistan will enhance the export of Agri and textile products to KSA and in-return KSA will export Oil to Pakistan without involving cash payments. In this regard assistance from Chinese firms-which are supposed to cultivate leased land in Pakistan under CPEC, can be sought.
Lastly, both countries Pakistan and KSA can come to fresh agreements related to military and defense viewing their hostile conditions against India and Iran respectively. The Pakistani government might allow Saudi presence in Gwadar to keep an eye on Indo-Iran movement on Chabahar port on the condition that KSA and its Arab allies promise diplomatic settlement of Doklam and Kashmir against Indian aggression.
One of the greatest challenges the renewed relations of Pak and KSA is the practice of International relations in modern times. John Henry Temple of Great Britain who once said: “There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests”. Most of the world leaders are pragmatic, thus, the Pak-KSA friendship is there till they have common interests. But this is not necessarily true, since both countries hold diplomatic, trade, and aid relations since pre-partition.
Secondly, International propagandas and personal commitments might hinder growing ties between these two countries as predecessors of MBS have remained tilted towards allies like Israel and India, thus Pakistan might not be able to join the multilateral defense and trade forums of KSA in the presence of such allies.
Lastly, Pakistan’s 207 million population comprises of 20 percent Shias who completely dislike the country’s growing connections with the ‘House of Saud’ or ‘Saud royal family’. Thus, a country like Pakistan which is already a victim of extremism and terrorism can not afford for the growing of a sectarian divide.
This scenario has presented many prospects for raising our economically-wrecked country. With the help of KSA and the China’s CPEC project, we can have energy security very quickly . However, there is a need to form a strong strategic management model for the implementation and monitoring of such multi-billion dollar international funded projects. On the same time government the should work towards anticipating the challenges and obstacles which may hinder the national agenda of repositioning the country on the socio-economic fronts.
The writer is a Lecturer in the Department of Management Sciences, NUML, Multan
Published in Daily Times, February 21st 2019.