Saudi Arabia backs India-Pakistan dialogue
New Delhi Saudi Arabia has welcomed the decision by India and Pakistan to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and backed a dialogue between the South Asian rivals to address all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute.
The kingdom’s position was articulated in a joint statement issued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia late on Saturday after a meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. It came against the backdrop of speculation about the role being played by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to foster dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Khan was on an official visit to Saudi Arabia from May 7 to 9. Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa too visited Saudi Arabia last week. Both Bajwa and Khan held meetings with the Saudi crown prince and the talks were seen as part of Pakistan’s efforts to normalise strained relations with Saudi Arabia.
The joint statement said the Saudi crown prince “welcomed the recent understanding reached between the military authorities of Pakistan and India regarding ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), which is based on a 2003 understanding between Pakistan and India”.
It added that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan “emphasised the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to ensure peace and stability in the region”.
However, a separate readout issued by the Saudi side on the meeting between Khan and the crown prince made no mention of India or the Kashmir issue.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to the joint statement.
There has been speculation about the role played by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan since the 2019 Pulwama suicide bombing, which triggered a tense military standoff.
The UAE envoy to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, confirmed last month that his country played a role in bringing together India and Pakistan for talks aimed at calming tensions over the Kashmir issue and getting bilateral ties “back to a healthy level”. It is understood that senior Indian and Pakistani security officials have met in London and Dubai for secret talks in recent months.
The surprise decision by the Indian and Pakistani armies to recommit themselves to the 2003 ceasefire on the LoC from February 25 is seen as the outcome of these contacts.
During the Pakistani prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two sides reviewed all aspects of bilateral cooperation and discussed regional and international issues. They agreed to intensify contacts and cooperation between government officials and the private sector, and the crown prince assured Khan of Saudi Arabia’s continued support for his vision to transform Pakistan into a modern welfare state.
Both sides also expressed satisfaction at cooperation in military and security ties, and agreed to augment collaboration to achieve mutually agreed goals, the joint statement said.
The two sides said an “inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement” is the only way forward in Afghanistan. They also signed several agreements on establishing a Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council, combating illicit trafficking in narcotics and drugs and financing projects in energy, hydropower, infrastructure and transport and communication.