Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have strategic partnership. Both enjoy genealogical relations that are entrenched in common faith, traditions and commonality of views on all issues of mutual interest. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always stood by each other in testing times and the people of Pakistan deeply value relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are undoubtedly, strategic partners and brothers in true sense of socio-economic, geo-politics and geo-strategic parameters. Cataclysms in the Middle East, withdrawal of allied forces from Afghanistan, economic path-dependencies and above all war against terror have already given new proportions to bilateral ties of both the countries.
Saudi Foreign Minister H.E. Saud Al Faisal recent visit
During his two days visit Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal met President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz to make better understanding towards emerging regional and international geo-political and geo-strategic issues. Government of Pakistan termed it as a historic event, while the Saudis felt satisfied and happy over the outcome of the two-day trip. The two sides have agreed to hold regular consultations and coordination on regional and international issues of mutual concern.
Speaking to reporters, Prince Saud said his meetings with Sharif, Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, and Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the premier on foreign and national security affairs, reflected the deep-rooted historic relations between the two Islamic countries.
Importance of Joint Economic Commission & Joint Business Council
Speaking at a media conference after completing his engagements, the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister said: “Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy commonality of views and understanding on regional peace.” The two countries also agreed to convene a meeting of their Joint Economic Commission (JEC) to discuss the various proposals for cooperation in trade, economy, investment and energy. Saudi Arabia expressed particular interest in investments in the energy sector. The two countries decided to activate their Joint Business Council (JBC) for increasing the involvement of the private sector.
Strategic Agenda for further Strengthening of Bilateral Relations
For further strengthening of bilateral relations and start of commercial diplomacy the government of Pakistan desires of an early finalization of Pakistan-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). It seeks private investments from the Saudi investors and businessmen for joint ventures in the diverse field of economy and production. It also aims to opening of banking and financial cooperation between the two countries. Enhanced cooperation in the fields of military production, collaboration, training and exercise would be mutually benefits. It also pursues Saudi’s investments in the fields of livestock, agro-based industries and food security.
Diversified Bounties for Saudi Arabia’s Investors
The government also intends to disinvest its Public Sector Entities (PSEs), which can be another area of interest to Saudi businessmen. The government is also working on a new exploration policy to tap the huge natural resources in the country especially the “Shale Gas, the new revolution in the energy sector”. Pakistan expects Saudi businessmen to invest in the field of exploration that would be a win-win for all.
Pak-Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Cooperation
Saudi Arabia can also participate in the development of Gwadar by providing financing or investing in some of the areas related to Port infrastructure such as storage, warehousing etc. hotels, motels, travel and tourism, industrial sector, seafood processing and export, date processing and export, construction office spaces etc. social sector and other. The investments in oil refinery would be vital for both the countries in the days to come.
Activation of Saudi-Pak Economic Commission
Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar praised the resumption of the Saudi-Pak Economic Commission, which was not so active for several years. It is hoped that the revival of this Commission will provide a forum to both the countries to explore new areas of cooperation and fasten their economic strengths and potentials for mutual benefit and prosperity.
Pak-Saudi Arabia’s Commercial Diplomacy
According to official figures the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 2012 stood at $4.7 billion of which Pakistan’s exports to Saudi Arabia accounted for $456 million whereas imports from Saudi Arabia stood at $4.29 billion.
(a) Pakistan’s exports to the Kingdom
Pakistan’s exports to the Kingdom have more or less been stagnant during the last 10 years and have been hovering around $300 to 400 million. In 2012 Pakistan’s exports for the first time crossed the $450 million mark.
(b) Balance of Trade
The balance of trade between the two countries has historically been in favor of Saudi Arabia, due to Pakistan’s dependence on imports of oil and petroleum products for its local needs, which accounts for approximately 75 percent of Pakistan’s total imports from Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile the Saudi authorities are already in the process of lifting the ban on poultry imports from Pakistan, which will allow the country to tap into the $400 million Saudi poultry import market.
Significance of Saudi Arabia Investments & Initiatives of Saudi Fund for Development
Prince Saud said the prospect of investing in Pakistan’s energy sector could be discussed during the next joint economic commission meeting. He pledged that the Saudi Fund for Development would continue to finance Pakistan’s development projects. Most recently, Saudi Fund for Development (SDF) has announced an additional fund of $57 million for 106-megawatts (MW) Golen Gol Hydropower Project being constructed in district Chitral of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Saudi Fund has earlier provided financial assistance of $40 million for civil works of Golen Gol Hydropower Project.
SDF stands for Social Development and Empowerment
Moreover, the SDF has already completed 498 impressive schemes out of 585 for the community infrastructure restoration and rehabilitation in six tehsils of disturbed areas of Swat. According to Saudi mission in Islamabad, the schemes completed so far comprise street pavement, link roads, drainage channels and bridges etc, and they have been handed over to communities concerned.
Saudi’s Worries about Afghanistan
Saud Al-Faisal said there was need for joint efforts to eradicate the menace of terrorism. He said that international troops were drawing down from Afghanistan by the end of this year and efforts were required to stop the terrorists from regrouping and fill the gap being created due to the withdrawal of international forces. He said that Afghanistan was going through a critical phase and a cautious approach should be adopted to restore peace in the country especially after withdrawal of the US forces.
The Prince urged that its various main stakeholders and groups should work together and prevent foreign parties from exploiting its poor security situation. The Sharif reaffirmed that Pakistan remained committed to facilitating an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, adding that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in his country’s interests.
Saudis respects the will of Syrian People
On Syria, Prince Saud said the irresponsible statements by some international parties would affect the success of the Geneva II conference. “I’m afraid these statements are aimed at diverting the conference from implementing the Geneva I resolutions.” The Saudi minister said Syria needs a new interim coalition government with wide-ranging powers that does not include Bashar Assad or key figures in his regime. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agreed to deepen their defence cooperation and support each other’s position on regional issues, including Syria and Afghanistan.
Saudis Efforts towards resolution of Palestinian-Israeli talks
He also stressed that the new Palestinian-Israeli talks should focus on the final solution to the protracted issue. He expressed doubts that the current negotiations would achieve concrete results in the next nine months because of Israel’s intransigence.
Special privileges to Saudis
Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif offered special privileges to Saudis investing in Pakistan’s energy, infrastructure, agriculture, livestock and other key sectors.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always stood by each other in testing times and the people of Pakistan deeply value relations with the Kingdom,” the prime minister said following talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
Need of new strategic relationship
The prime minister met Prince Saud and discussed bilateral and regional issues. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia need to enhance bilateral trade by holding regular meetings between its commerce ministries, the premier said.
The prime minister said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia need to enhance bilateral trade to reflect the strong fraternal bonds that exist between them by holding regular meetings between the commerce ministers to explore ways of enhancing bilateral trade. About the energy situation in Pakistan, the prime minister said Pakistan would welcome investment by the kingdom in energy sector and also in other sectors like infrastructure, agriculture and livestock.
“There is a need to start a new strategic relationship between our two countries to further broaden and deepen the existing cordial relations,” Sharif said. “Pakistan supports all efforts aimed at strengthening unity among Islamic countries.” The premier thanked the Saudi government for helping Pakistani workers affected by Nitaqat regulations he added.
Common Security Bloc to GCC-6
“The government of Pakistan has already offered a formal ‘security bloc’ to GCC-6 (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) to combat any external or internal security threats in the region. It has multiplier effects. Moreover, it would also ensure food safety and further economic integration in the days to come”.
Regional Security Paradigm Shift
Pakistan could provide common military/security bloc to GCC-6 which would be paradigm shift in the region. It would be curial for the GCC-6 short and long terms geo-political and geo-strategic vested interests. The existing Peninsula Shield in the GCC would be further strengthened and streamlined. There would a joint military to face any potential or emerging regional threats and confronting realities. The prospects of having new weapon system and unifying military training would also be initiated under this planned joint strategic security bloc between the Pakistan and the GCC.
A Human Bridge
The large Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia is a human bridge between the two brotherly countries and will continue to play a vital role in the development of Saudi Arabia. Pakistani remittances from the Kingdom have surpassed $ 4 billion annually. He added that skilled human resources could help the Kingdom meet future development requirements.
Further Enhancing of Bilateral Ties via Commercial Diplomacy
President Mamnoon Hussain called for further expansion of bilateral ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in various fields with particular focus on trade and investment, infrastructure, dams and energy sectors. Talking to Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud at the Presidency, the president referred to Pakistan’s conducive, business-friendly environment and invited Saudi investors and businessmen to invest in Pakistan.
It is hoped that enhanced cooperation in the field of civil aviation would bring improvement in cargo & shipment mechanism. There should be larger exports of surgical instruments, furniture, leather goods, fruit and vegetable to Saudi Arabia. Joint ventures in the fields of energy production especially in solar, wind and hydro would be win-win situation for both the countries.
Further deepening of Strategic partnership
He said the government of Pakistan was keen to further deepen the strategic partnership and bilateral cooperation in diverse fields to the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries. He also mentioned scope for increased cooperation in agriculture and livestock sectors.
Saudi government’s generous assistance
The president appreciated and thanked King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and the Saudi government for the generous assistance extended to the government and people of Pakistan in every hour of need and testing times.
Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Suleman bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz’s Visit
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged for beginning of a new era of Pak-Saudi strategic relationship to further broaden the existing brotherly bilateral relations. Talking to Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Suleman bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz the PM said that in view of emerging security issues there is a need to further strengthen defence cooperation between the two countries.
Kingdom’s Contributory role in the United Nations Global Counterterrorism Strategy
The PM appreciated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) role in implementation of the United Nations Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Most recently, Saudi Arabia has donated $100 million to the International Center for Counterterrorism (ICCT), an umbrella organization of the United Nations. Earlier, the Kingdom had supported the establishment of the New York-based ICCT by providing $10 million.
Pakistan as Front-Line State
The PM said that Pakistan remains committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It has suffered enormous human and financial losses in the fight against terrorism. However‚ these losses have not dented our resolve to fight this menace. He also said that Pakistan supports all efforts aimed at strengthening unity among the Islamic countries.
Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Showed Keen Interest
Saudi deputy defence minister showed keen interest in the defence products being produced at Pakistan Defence Industries. He appreciated the quality and standard of the products being produced at low prices. He added that the establishment of Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMCC) as well as Military Cooperation Committee (MCC) will prove beneficial forums to improve defence cooperation between the two countries.
Further Strengthening of Defence Relations
Prince Salman Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Minister for Defence of Kingdom of Saudia Arabia, foresees further strengthening of relations in the field of defence during his visit to the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) Wah.
Formation of common strategy against terrorism, extremism, human & drugs trafficking and the last but not the least maritime piracy should be rigorously followed. Therefore, Pakistan- Saudi Arabia would jointly cope with this widespread menace in the days to come.
Remarks in the Visitors’ Book
In his remarks in the visitors’ book, the honorable guest wrote “POF is a state of the art modern defence complex in which modern arms and ammunition are being manufactured and Muslim Ummah specially Saudi Arabia is proud of this defence complex of Pakistan and expressed his best desires for Pakistan especially POF”.
Briefing the Saudi delegation, POF chief Lt Gen Muhammad Ahsan Mahmood has said that POF not only meeting defence requirement of the Armed Forces of Pakistan but also exporting its products to more than 30 countries around the globe. Chairman POF Board further remarked that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were enjoying deep rooted defence ties since long which needs to be further strengthened.
Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must have joint security shield, energy cooperation, food security, joint strategy against terrorism and the last but not the least extremism. Above all both countries must initiative integrated efforts to bring peace in the region especially in Afghanistan.