Bilateral vigilance: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia


Bilateral vigilance: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

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The recent visit to Pakistan by a high level defense and intelligence delegation from Saudi Arabia last week was of seminal importance. It came at a time when the region is experiencing growing turbulence with reverberations felt internationally. Maritime security faces fresh challenges in the Arabian and Red Seas. Pakistan is passing through a political change of guard but cannot remain oblivious to regional realities. Close consultations have been a regular feature of Saudi-Pakistan bilateral ties and their center of gravity lies in defense and intelligence co-operation. 

Present day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were established fifteen years apart. Pakistan was the largest Muslim country in 1947 and the Kingdom was the custodian of the two holiest sites for Muslims. Their instant friendship and understanding was natural. This mutual friendship was a source of strength for both countries, as the security environment around them was not ideal. Defense co-operation in terms of training, therefore, started quite early.

In the current scenario too, the worldview of both countries is quite similar. Both want to pursue independent foreign policies and not indulge in bloc politics. They want to preserve their territorial integrity and the security of their territorial waters at all costs. Both abhor turbulence in the Gulf and their exclusive economic zones. They realize that the presence of non-state actors in the region only adds to uncertainties and makes the security situation volatile. Therefore, exchanging information about the current activities of non-state actors becomes a security imperative.

Oil shipments through these waters keep the wheels of the international economy moving. Pak-Saudi security co-operation therefore, contributes to international security.

- Javed Hafeez

State security is no longer confined to traditional threats on the borders. It also includes defense production autarky and economic interests. The Kingdom, Turkiye and Pakistan have concrete plans to jointly produce traditional and advanced defense equipment. Similarly, the Kingdom has evinced keen interest in investing in Pakistani agriculture and mineral extraction. The Saudi proposal to establish a large oil refinery in Pakistan is more than a bilateral undertaking. The envisaged refinery will not only meet Pakistani needs but also fulfil the energy needs of Western China. Fool proof security of these projects will also demand constant vigilance. Similarly, the security of China Pakistan Economic Corridor routes would be of high importance to all GCC countries as China buys 70 percent of its oil from the Gulf.

Pakistan is an old member of the Coalition Task Force (CTF) based in Bahrain. This naval force is exclusively tasked to counter terrorism, piracy and drug trafficking on the high seas. The Arabian and Red Sea are of utmost importance not only to the economies of the Kingdom and Pakistan but to the international economy as well. Oil shipments through these waters keep the wheels of the international economy moving. Pak-Saudi security co-operation therefore, contributes to international security.

States exchange sensitive information only when their relationship reaches a strategic level and when they develop high degrees of mutual trust. This visit shows that the Kingdom and Pakistan have achieved that level of confidence in one another. In these tumultuous times for the world when international friendships have short shelf-lives, Pakistan-Saudi ties have not only endured the test of time, but flourished through the decades.

- Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst. Twitter: @JavedHafiz8

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