Eying ties beyond ‘narrow confines’

February 20, 2019

Soon after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s arrival to a historic welcome in Pakistan, the two countries signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion with the Crown Prince declaring at the banquet speech that this was just first phase of Saudi investment in Pakistan and that the Kingdom would invest more in future. This is also a tribute to the leadership qualities of PM Imran and foreign policy direction of the PTI Government, which by signing new agreements hopefully looks towards taking relations with Saudi Arabia beyond ‘narrow confines’. It is to be noted that $20 billion investment was over and above the financial assistance offered by the Kingdom to Pakistan in the shape of deposits in State Bank of Pakistan and provision of oil on deferred payment facility, which would go a long way in helping the country to bridge over its financial crisis. Certainly, the Saudi investment at this time is welcome, as Pakistan is passing through severe economic crisis. It is hoped the investment materializes into reciprocally gainful undertakings that contribute to the country’s economic revitalization. The visit is also welcome at a time when India is intimidating to cut off Pakistan globally. Political observers have pointed out that the Saudi crown prince is intent on creating a regional connection encompassing the kingdom, Pakistan and other Asian states as part of his Vision 2030, in addition to articulating an interest in CPEC. This would be a longed-for move and could help repair relations with our eastern neighbor, particularly if there are high economic risk factors involved for all. In the long term, Pakistan should pursue expanding and enhancing its friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. But while doing this it should not at all ignore its relationships with other states in the region. Pakistan cannot afford to ignore its neighbors and must avoid getting involved in every regional power game and must also stay away from any kind of ventures, which can create state of unrest along its own borders. None can deny the fact that the bond between Islamabad and Riyadh is quite strong. There are over twenty five lakhs of Pakistani working in the kingdom, and they send millions of dollars home to support their families. There is a deep military connection between the two countries as well. Pakistanis also have a soft spot for the kingdom as Saudi Arabia is a guardian of Islam’s two holiest cities, that is to say, Mecca and Medina. We hope, as Prime Minister Imran Khan has rightly said, the combination of Pakistan’s geostrategic location, the comparative advantage Saudi Arabia has in certain areas, and the advantages that Pakistan has, will augur well for the future.

It is hoped the investment materializes into reciprocally gainful undertakings that contribute to the country’s economic revitalization.