Pak-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relations

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan

Saudi Arabia is our strategic partner which is rooted in culture, shared values and common faith. Close geographical propinquity, historic trade ties, religious acquaintance and the economic support have created a strong ties based on trust and mutual respect between the two countries.

Recently, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani visited to Saudi Arabia and met with the Custodian of two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and discussed on variety of bilateral and regional issues. A broad consensus was reached on enhancing Pakistan-Saudi Arabia partnership based on comprehensive cooperation. Both sides expressed the wish to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation and work closely to safeguard the stability and peace in the region and Islamic world.

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz reaffirmed that Pakistan was a key member of the Ummah and a close friend of the Kingdom. “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are one country; they are more than friends and more than brothers.

In recent extensive diplomatic spells between the two countries, Saudi leadership reaffirmed its commitment towards Pakistan’s cause and assured that it will continue its cooperation and assistance to Pakistan in all the fields and even agreed to enhance bilateral trade. The government of Pakistan also sought Saudi Arabia support for early finalization of Pakistan-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Matters relating to foreign direct investment, finance, trade, defence and export of manpower from Pakistan were also thoroughly discussed. Over 1.5 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and it was also agreed that Pakistan would send more trained manpower for the development of Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Saudi leadership agreed to provide financial support for the construction of Bhasha Diamir Dam and also assured to extend help for other energy projects.

President Asif Ali Zardari and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia agreed to work with greater cooperation in the wake of major developments in the region. The two leaders held extensive discussions on bilateral ties, situation in the Middle East and South Asia and the fight against militancy. The issues related to Iran, Afghanistan, situation in Bahrain and its security implications for the region came under discussion during the meeting.

National political scientists, regional strategists and international security experts termed President Zardari’s visit as significant because it immediately follows his visits to Iran and Afghanistan. According to them it is all about the ‘end game’ in the Afghan war, the turmoil in Bahrain and worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the President Zardari’s visit is being seen as an effort to evolve a joint strategy on these sensitive issues.

It seems that the recent regional geo-political and geo-strategic developments have played important role bringing both the countries closer than they were about a year ago. The government of Pakistan has been doing track-II diplomacy for the last few months to bring Saudi Arabia and Iran on board and achieve regional harmony and greater peace.

Diplomatic Relations

Saudi Arabia has been helping Pakistan in many fields since 1947. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are leading members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and encouraged both the countries to start confidence building measures. It openly opposed partition of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. Both the countries were at same wave-length at the time of Afghan War and remained closed allies fighting against communism during 1980s. During the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, Pakistan on request, sent troops to protect the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Both the countries played important role in recognition of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Pakistan offered its political, moral and diplomatic support on many regional Islamic and international issues.

Saudi Arabia came to our rescue even in May 1998 (nuclear test) and promised to supply 50,000 barrels per day of free oil to help Pakistan cope with likely economic sanctions in the aftermath.

Saudi Arabia extended its humanitarian assistance on many times of natural calamities in the country. Saudi Arabia donated SR245 billion between 1973 and 1993, which equals 5.5 percent of its average annual production during that period. In recent years, both countries have exchanged high-level delegations and developed plans to expand bilateral cooperation in trade, education, real estate, tourism, information technology, communications and agriculture.

Saudi Arabia has provided assistance in form of fuel donation, fuel credit. Both the countries strongly advocate dialogue among cultures, civilizations and faiths, so as to remove misperceptions among the followers of different faiths. Saudi Arabia has been among the first countries to acknowledge Pakistan as a newly developed country and extended a helping hand to strengthen its development drive.

Pak-Saudi Trade Volumes

Exports to Saudi Arabia Principal items
Rice, ready made garments, cotton fabrics, synthetic fabrics, made up textiles, tents and canvas, fruits and vegetables, spices, towels, carpets and rugs, sports goods, fish and fish preparations, handicrafts, leather manufactures and printed matters
Imports from Saudi Arabia Crude petroleum, polythene, plastic moulding powder, aluminum waste, urea, dates, copper wire and rods, ships and boats, ether and its derivatives, chemicals machines, paper waste, parts of aircraft and sulphur.
Source: FBS

Saudi Arabia is among the 15 export partners of Pakistan with which bilateral trade volume has gone above US$ 4 billion per annum and it would be further increased in future.

Recommendations

It is strongly recommended that cargo flights between both of the countries should be increased to save extra tax expenditure as well as quality of a product. There should be close coordination and information sharing between the local business community and the Saudi business men to further boost trade in the fields of surgical instruments, furniture, leather goods, fruit and vegetable. Simplification of the visa process would further facilitate the business community in the country. Moreover, there were 350 Pakistani investors in the Saudi Arabia have already obtained licenses from Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and have established companies in various fields.

Main Contribution

Pakistan has very close and longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has already invested substantially in some Pakistani key sectors of the economy and basic industries which are given below as: Saudi Arabia is interested in investing in Pakistan’s energy and agriculture sectors.

Key sectors/fields
infrastructure, key production industries, banking, irrigation, energy, fertilizer and port development like Mirpur Mathelo Fertilizer Plant, Pipri Thermal Power Project, Tarbela Dam repairs, Port Qasim etc

Military Cooperation

Since form the beginning, both the countries maintain close military ties by providing extensive support, arms and training for the military of Saudi Arabia. Pilots of the Pakistan Air Force flew aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force to deter an raid from South Yemen in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, approximately 15,000 Pakistani soldiers were stood tall in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia showed great interests to purchase of Pakistani ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have information mechanism on different subject.

Pakistan-Saudi Arabia alliance would guarantee larger regional conciliation and stronger ties of survival, production and socio-economic prosperity. Generosity of Saudi Arabia, mediation of Pakistan hold the key of success.

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