Pakistan moves to damage control mode for stronger ties with Saudi Arabia

Pakistan moves to damage control mode for stronger ties with Saudi Arabia

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The remarks by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier this month wherein he described the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) response on the Kashmir issue as "lukewarm" were unwarranted and have caused an avoidable misunderstanding at a time of great turmoil in the Islamic world. 

Such references, which could cause anxiety, are best ignored.

And why blame the OIC? Would any resolution by the OIC on Kashmir likely be heeded by India? Would any such call for the rights of Kashmiris be taken seriously by New Delhi or force a reappraisal of policy? 

The fact of the matter is India has been defying the UN resolution on the issue of Kashmir for decades --- with impunity. 

On the other hand, any such move by the OIC could cause many problems for Arab countries.

Hundreds of thousands of Indians have been working in Arab and Middle Eastern countries for decades, contributing to the economies of these countries by sending remittances worth billions of dollars each year. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have for long enjoyed very cordial relations, and there has never been a sharp divergence of perception on some key issues facing the region.

Rustam Shah Mohmand

To think that such deep socio-economic contacts would be made to suffer is a folly.

Nations operate to further their interests, not compromise them for the sake of external disputes that are unrelated to them.

When it is a matter of principle, countries do take a stand on vital issues in the region, but this has to be done in a pragmatic manner so that it does not create more problems.  

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have for long enjoyed very cordial relations, and there has never been a sharp divergence of perception on some key issues facing the region. 

Saudi Arabia has historically extended help at every crucial juncture whenever Pakistan needed it. 

In more recent years, the Kingdom has offered vital financial assistance worth billions of dollars. 

Also, Riyadh has extended the facility of deferred payments for oil it delivers to Pakistan. 

Billions of dollars are dispatched to Pakistan by a vast diaspora working in the Kingdom. At the same time, many Saudi NGOs are actively involved in extending humanitarian assistance to needy people across the country.

Relations with such countries are, therefore, a source of strength and inspiration. 

Nothing should be done to put such mutually beneficial and enduring ties at stake.  

Pakistan has now swung into action to control the damage. 

With such tremendous love and affection that exists at all levels between the people of the two countries, it will not be difficult to remove any misunderstanding that may have been caused by FM Qureshi's remarks.

Incidentally, this is an opportunity to consider ways and means to consolidate the relations and expand them to widen the scope of cooperation. 

Expansion of trade could be a very crucial tool for segmenting the brotherly ties between the two countries. 

The Kingdom is a good market for Pakistan’s agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables, while other commodities such as agricultural machinery, textiles, leather products etc. could be added to the list.

Saudi students could also be invited to study in Pakistan's engineering and medical colleges as well as agricultural universities. 

Saudi Arabia could contribute to embarking upon some big projects in the IT, communication or industrial sector. 

The avenues for cooperation are endless, and the two countries could work together to promote regional peace and stability. 

There could be areas where perceptions would not be completely identical. That is understandable. But there should be an effort to understand and appreciate such political or geostrategic compulsions.  

Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy unique and privileged positions in the Islamic world. 

Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest places for Muslims around the world whereby millions of Muslims from all over the world visit the Kingdom for Hajj and Umrah every year.

It is a leader of the Islamic world and is held in the highest esteem. 

Pakistan, on the other hand, is one of the largest Muslim majority countries and one that has nuclear weapons. 

Both countries working together can bring about a transformation of socio-economic emancipation of the people of the region that is premised on a peaceful resolution of disputes and an understanding of each other's concerns and goals. 

In pursuing this great and historic mission, the two countries would need to deepen their ties in the years to come.  

- Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view