From Blind Reliance to Contractual Convenience: The Recent Pakistani-Saudi Rift

From Blind Reliance to Contractual Convenience: The Recent Pakistani-Saudi Rift


Arhama Siddiqa *


One of the most talked about things from Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan in early 2019 was when, with the aim of inspiriting brotherly ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, he stated, “Consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.”. This proclamation was however brought to bear on 5 August 2020.

In a televised discussion on this date, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, inveighed against, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) lackluster response to the Indian brutalities being carried out in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK). Exactly a year prior to this interview, India had abrogated articles 370 and 35 A of its constitution, thereby revoking IoK’s autonomy. During the same conversation, Qureshi stated that if, the OIC failed to “convene the meeting of the council of foreign ministers” soon, Pakistan would be predisposed to turn towards countries which are willing to unhesitatingly stand against the sufferings of the Kashmiri people.

Here, it is important to point out last year’s Kuala Lumpur summit which was co-hosted by Malaysia, Turkey and Iran. The aim was to find plausible solutions to the perplexities facing Muslims today. However, the summit was perceived as an affront and a direct challenge to the OIC. Due to Saudi pressure, Pakistan had to cancel its representation at the meeting at the eleventh hour.

Qureshi’s remarks, meant to be a cautious warning bell, horribly ricocheted and instead had unwelcome repercussions for Pakistan. Saudi Arabia immediately demanded that $1 billion of the $3 billion loan it had given Pakistan in 2018, be returned. The $3.2 billion oil credit facility (also a part of the 2018 deal) has not been renewed since May. The deteriorating situation also gave birth to rumours that Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif would soon be replacing Imran Khan under pressure from the Gulf countries. Nevertheless, the fact that Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made no rescinding statement was an indication that Qureshi’s remarks had the full backing of the government.

On 17 August, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Bajwa, visited Riyadh for what were purported to be routine visits regarding military ties and training exchanges. Au contraire, it was believed that the main purpose was to even out the recent bump in relations. At the same time, Prime Minister Khan also dismissed rumours of any disparities between Islamabad and Riyadh. His statement was reiterated by Qureshi on 31 August, during a meeting with the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, where he stated that “Pakistan stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Kingdom.” Two days later, the OIC’s Secretary General assured his organisation’s commitment to the people of Kashmir. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, and Energy Minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman, are anticipated to visit Pakistan soon.

A complete breakup seems to have been averted for the time being at least.



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Courtesy of the author. Originally published in Al Jazeera Center for Studies, September 15th, 2020.



* The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the official policy, position or view of the Romanian Institute for Europe-Asia Studies - IRSEA or any of its partners.