Want to help India, Pakistan open talks, says Saudi envoy

Saudi ambassador Saud bin Mohammed al-Sati said that he had noted the “reference that Imran Khan made regarding India — that if India takes one step, we will take two”. It was encouraging, he said, that this was followed by PM Modi’s call to Khan to congratulate him on his electoral success.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2018 23:23 IST
HT Correspondent
Saudi Arabia,India,Pakistan
Saudi ambassador Saud bin Mohammed al-Sati spoke on a wide range of issues, including bilateral security cooperation and Iran’s alleged meddling in Afghanistan.(HT Photo)

Saudi Arabia hopes India and Pakistan will resume peace talks and will be happy to help the process but only if it is asked to do so, Saudi ambassador Saud bin Mohammed al-Sati said on Thursday.

He said he had noted the “reference that the Prime Minister-elect of Pakistan, Imran Khan, made regarding India — that if India takes one step, we will take two”. It was encouraging, he said, that this was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Khan to congratulate him on his electoral success.

“These were very positive. Pakistan is a strong partner of Saudi Arabia and India is our strategic partner and we hope that dialogue will be resumed between the two countries,” he said. “If we can and if we are asked to help, we will be very happy to help,” he added.

During an interview, al-Sati spoke on a wide range of issues, including bilateral security cooperation and Iran’s alleged meddling in Afghanistan.

Referring to the arrest of a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative at the New Delhi airport after his deportation from Saudi Arabia on August 5, the envoy said there is “excellent” cooperation between the two sides to counter extremism and terror financing. “There is no outstanding issue in terms of security cooperation…there is zero terror financing (from Saudi Arabia) and we don’t allow any (illegal) money transfers to any organizations worldwide and particularly to India,” he said.

Asked what action Saudi Arabia will take if controversial preacher Zakir Naik, whose extradition has been sought from Malaysia, returned to the kingdom, al-Sati said he would not go into hypothetical matters.

“All I can say is Zakir Naik is an Indian national who visited Saudi Arabia like any other Indian national and left... he is not in the kingdom anymore. We don’t intervene in other countries’ matters,” he said.

While backing efforts to reconcile with Taliban elements that give up violence in Afghanistan, al-Sati said his country hosted a conference of ‘ulema’ that encouraged national reconciliation to end instability and war.

“Afghani national reconciliation is very important for the political process to succeed. The main principle here is denouncing terrorism and putting aside weapons to come to the political process and working with other Afghan groups to reconcile,” he said.

However, the envoy criticised Iran’s intervention in Afghanistan, including the recruitment of Afghan Shias and “training them and sending them to areas of conflict” such as Syria. He said there were also reports of Iran recruiting from among Afghan refugees and sending them to countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“Using these recruits to intervene in other countries’ internal affairs and destabilising their security is not going to…help in countering terrorism. So we have to pay attention to this,” he said.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 23:23 IST