Pak Has Jeopardised Ties With Saudis: Ex-Diplomat

Pakistan has ‘jeopardised’ its relations with Saudi Arabia by giving unusual ultimatum demanding an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Kashmir, said a former Pakistani diplomat.

Through an opinion piece in The Diplomat, Pakistan former Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, chided Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s blunt warning to ally Saudi. He said Pakistan seems to be having difficulty with understanding some fundamental realities of international relations.

Recently, Qureshi told the OIC to convene a Council of Foreign Ministers over the Kashmir issue, or else Pakistan would “call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on Kashmir”.

Qureshi stated that as Pakistan pulled out of the Kuala Lumpur summit after Saudi Arabia’s “request”, it now expects Riyadh to “show leadership on this issue”.

“Given that asymmetric reality, successive Pakistani governments have acted humbly with the Kingdom’s leadership. But humility or gratitude runs contrary to the core narrative of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s populist government,” Haqqani wrote.

“The frequency with which Khan takes U-turns, however, shows a lack of understanding on key issues, both domestic and international, and failure to grasp that what he says and does affect the lives of 210 million Pakistanis,” he added.

Haqqani said that the Saudi do not look kindly upon ultimatums and “will be especially offended when it comes from a country that has frequently sought economic bailouts from the Kingdom”.

Riyadh has helped Islamabad many times including helping in paying for Pakistan’s first batch of F-16 fighter aircraft in the 1980s and providing USD 6 billion loans that helped Pakistan tide over its balance of payments crisis just two years ago.

“Saudi Arabia is also a significant employer of expatriate Pakistani labour and a major source of remittances,” Haqqani wrote.

Haqqani, the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, said that burgeoning Saudi economic ties with India have irked Pakistanis who see world affairs as a “zero-sum game” between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan seems to be having difficulty with understanding some fundamental realities of international relations.

“But due to Pakistan’s inability to transform itself into a productive economy, the country’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia stands at a meagre USD 3.6 billion. Saudi trade with India, on the other hand, has risen to USD 27 billion and is expanding further,” he wrote.

For now, Haqqani said that the fall out of Qureshi’s “public insult” to the Saudis has been a demand to return the USD 3 billion Riyadh lent on a short-term basis and a delay in the renewal of the agreement to defer payment on oil supplies. He said that Pakistan borrowed USD 1 billion from China to start returning the Saudi loan, a classic case of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

“Promising to bring in fresh faces to run Pakistan, Khan has actually ended up with the same old establishment supported technocrats and evergreen politicians who join every government supported by the establishment,” he wrote. (ANI)

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