Pakistan-Saudi Arabia tiff widens? As Islamabad returns loan, questions rise
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had criticised Saudi Arabia for not convening a meeting of the OIC on the Kashmir issue. The remarks drew criticism at home.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 16:23 IST
There appears to be a shift in policy of Saudi Arabia towards Pakistan. The differences in their relations surfaced when Pakistan was made to pay back US $1 billion to Saudi Arabia last week.
Pakistan has also not received the oil on deferred payments from Saudi Arabia since May as a deal signed between the two close allies for provision of US $3.2 billion worth of the fuel under the arrangement expired two months ago.
Here are the developments in the past few months which are being keenly watched:
• Pakistan has been insisting that Saudi Arabia should allow it to marshal the support of the Islamic world on the Kashmir issue. In February, it had asked for a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the issue, but Saudi Arabia turned down the request. The OIC is a group of 57 Muslim countries in which Saudi Arabia holds considerable sway.
• Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been openly demanding that Saudi Arabia should convene an OIC council meeting on Kashmir after India’s move to scrap Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state.
• Qureshi even criticised Saudi Arabia for not heeding to its request. In a television interview, he said that if Saudi Arabia cannot support Pakistan, it will call a meeting of those Islamic countries “who stand with us on the Kashmir issue”. But the remarks drew criticism at home, with some experts saying Qureshi should have been careful.
• “It should not have been expected that as Saudi Arabia is a friend of Pakistan so it will automatically be against India’s stance on Kashmir. This is not a college but an international arena,” a Pakistani journalist Amir Mateen was quoted as saying by news outlets in the country.
• Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Muhammad bin Salman had signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth US $20 billion during his visit to Pakistan in February 2019. Experts feel Pakistan’s continued insistence could jeopardise this entire investment; they say that the present dispensation in Islamabad should handle the issue carefully because “prince Salman is young and has impulsive behaviour”.
• After Pakistan failed to gather support from the OIC members on Kashmir on May 22, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said, “The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division amongst (us). We cannot even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir.”
• Other experts say that even China is wary and treading a cautious line not to become involved in the Middle Eastern politics.
• Pakistan has already returned US $1 billion Saudi loan - four months ahead of its repayment period - a news report said. Citing sources, it said Pakistan could also return the remaining US $2 billion cash loan, subject to availability of a similar facility from China.
• The agreement over US $3 billion cash support and US $3.2 billion oil facility per annum had the provision of renewal for two more years.
• The UAE had also announced a US $6.2 billion package for Pakistan in December 2018, including a US $3.2 billion oil facility. But later on, the UAE reduced its financial assistance to US $2 billion and also shelved the plan to give a US $3.2 billion oil facility on deferred payments.