Saudi-Pak Relations: A history of dynamism
The roots of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can be traced back to days of the latter’s pre-independence, when Saudi royalty was among the first sympathizers of the Muslim League cause in South Asia.
In 1947, without hesitation, Saudi Arabia extended its immediate recognition to the new country in the aftermath of independence and since then, has always stood by Pakistan’s side. During the 1971 civil strife in East Pakistan, it viewed the breakup of Pakistan as an international assault on Islam and it was on the Saudi initiative that the conference of the Foreign Ministers of Islamic countries passed a resolution in support of Pakistan in 1972.
King Faisal was actively involved in the holding of the second summit conference of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in Lahore in February ‘74, to demonstrate to the world that Muslim countries supported Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia did not recognize Bangladesh until Pakistan itself extended recognition to it in February ‘74. For the Hajj in ‘72 and ‘73, Saudi Arabia only accepted Bangladeshi passports after first consulting with Pakistan.
In the decade between the ‘70s and ‘80s, economic cooperation between the two countries increased. Though Pakistani workers and professionals had started going to Saudi Arabia in the late ‘60s, the pace increased manifold in those years. Saudi Arabia extended financial grants and investments to Pakistan. Saudi investment projects in Pakistan were established. Saudi Arabia provided humanitarian assistance for major natural calamities like earthquakes and floods, funding for Islamic education and for setting up public welfare projects.
Saudi-Pakistan cooperation in defense and security fields dates back to the signing of the agreement for technical cooperation in 1967. Since then, Saudi military personnel have been coming to Pakistan for training courses at various military training institutions, including the Military Academy at Kakul and the National Defense University in Islamabad. Pakistani military officers, serving and retired, are deputed in Saudi Arabia from time to time on training assignments. In ‘79, Pakistan’s military helped Saudi security forces knock out the temporary siege of the holy shrine in Makkah by a group of extremists. It also made its personnel available after Sadam Hussain’s government in Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Pakistan is an active participant of the Saudi initiative to establish a joint military system of Muslim states for countering terrorism. Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have periodically pledged to support each other’s security and territorial integrity. However, so far Pakistan has avoided any involvement in intra-Arab political and military discords.
At the end of last year, Saudi Arabia’s generous financial support to Pakistan of a cumulative $6 billion in loans and deferred payments on oil imports, came when Pakistan was heavily burdened by the pressures of international loan repayment. Saudi Arabia offered an investment package worth 20 billon dollars for different sectors of Pakistani economy, including an oil refinery in Gwadar, during the visit of crown prince Muhammad bin Salman to Pakistan this weekend. This will give a boost to Pakistan’s economy and facilitate more Saudi investment in Pakistan in the future. The much-awaited visit of crown prince Muhammad bin Salman to Pakistan this weekend, where he is expected to sign up for major investment in Punjab and Gwadar, is further expected to expand the horizons of political and economic cooperation.
• Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi is a Pakistan-based political analyst. Twitter: @har132har