ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi categorically denied on Friday that there was any diplomatic tension between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, saying that the two countries enjoyed strong and exemplary relationship since they had always been close friends and allies.
Qureshi made the statement on Geo News, a local television channel, during an interview in which he was asked about his recent comments on the Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation in which he had said that his country would raise the Kashmir issue outside the framework of the inter-governmental Muslim organization if a conference of OIC foreign ministers was not held on Kashmir.
His statement was immediately condemned by opposition politicians who described it as “irresponsible” and reminded the government that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia were critically important.
Discussing the situation, Qureshi said that the opposition had decontextualized his statement and was indulging in “political point scoring.”
“After the United Nations, where we have taken up the Kashmir issue three times in the last one year, the second biggest forum is the OIC,” he explained. “The OIC has consistently maintained a historic position over the issue. It also established a contact group that releases joint communiques focusing on rights violations in occupied Kashmir.”
However, he added that the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers was a relevant forum to discuss the challenges faced by Muslims around the world. It was also the best platform to discuss “the anti-Muslim sentiments prevailing in India.”
“I am, therefore, respectfully asking that forum to understand the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and Kashmir,” he continued.
Qureshi denied that Saudi Arabia had somehow resisted Pakistan’s requests on Kashmir, saying he was particularly thankful to the Saudi foreign minister who raised fine points while addressing the issue from the OIC forum.
“Saudi Arabia is our supporter and well-wisher,” he continued. “I know how many Pakistanis live and work in the Kingdom. I am also aware of the fact that the Saudi authorities have helped us in difficult situations, and I am going to reiterate that defending the Saudi land is like a sacred responsibility for us, and we are going to do that even by putting our own lives in danger. It is important, however, that they should also heed the desires of our people.”
He maintained that he only sought the meeting of OIC foreign ministers since it was going to have a major diplomatic impact, adding that anything the participants said during the congregation was going to resonate with people around the world.
“One only makes such demands while dealing with close friends,” he noted. “Such demands are not made in relationships with distances.”