Kashmir Fallout: Saudi’s Snub Pak Efforts To Mend Relations

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – File Pic

Islamabad: Pakistan’s effort to repair relations with Saudi Arabia has been snubbed by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. The de facto ruler of the kingdom refused to meet with Islamabad’s Army Chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was in the Kingdom to mend ties between the two countries.

Bajwa, who started his visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday, returned home after being declined a meeting with bin Salman, known popularly as MBS. Instead, Bajwa had to settle for a meeting with the 34-year old’s younger brother, Deputy Defence Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Salman, and Maj Gen Fayyad Al Ruwaili, the kingdom’s chief of general staff, Middle East Monitor reported on Thursday.

It reported that Bajwa conveyed regret over comments made by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi which angered the Saudis. Qureshi in an unusually sharp warning asked Saudi Arabia-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) early this month to stop dilly-dallying on the convening of a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir.

Appearing in a talk show on ARY News, the foreign minister said: “I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

Qureshi said that if OIC fails to summon the CFM meeting, Pakistan would be ready to go for a session outside OIC. In response to another question, he said Pakistan could not wait any further.

The comment was met with fury in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia terminated its loan and oil supply to Pakistan, prompting a diplomatic row between the two nations which traditionally have been allies.

During the meeting in Riyadh, Bajwa is said to have floated a proposal for a meeting of the OIC contact group on Kashmir on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting to be held under Turkey. It’s not clear though if the Saudis will agree to such a meeting in light of their recent hostility towards Ankara.

The Saudis have been wary of any initiative that would allow for the creation of a block made up of Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia and Iran. This sentiment is thought to have been conveyed to Bajwa who was told that cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey is unacceptable to Riyadh.

Sources in India have reported that if Pakistan refuses to accept Saudi Arabia’s demand the oil-rich Gulf nation may cancel its investment of $20 million in Gwadar Port. Such a move though is only likely to move Pakistan further towards Turkey.

In a move that is likely to widen the rift between Pakistan and the block of Gulf countries led by the UAE, Imran Khan said his country will not recognise Israel until the Palestine issue is resolved. He suggested that accepting the state of Israel is equivalent to giving up Pakistan’s stance on “illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir” which have been seized by India.

Amid Tensions With Saudi, Pak Moves Closer To China

It was the statement of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi against the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), pertaining to the Kashmir dispute, which attracted irked response from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

And while Pakistan’s military establishment is focused on mending the dented ties between the two Islamic nations, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement, coupled with the visit of Qureshi to China, is signalling at Islamabad extending allegiance and inclination towards Beijing.

Qureshi, accompanied by senior officials, will be in Hainan, China, from August 20-21 to take part in the second round of China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.

As per the Pakistan Foreign Office, “The Chinese side will be led by State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.”

“During the dialogue, both sides will, inter alia, discuss cooperation on Covid-19, bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest. The visit will play an important role in further strengthening the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and deepen strategic communication and coordination with China on a range of issues,” said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release.

Qureshi’s visit comes a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan’s future is tied with China, indicating visible signs of Islamabad’s intended inclination towards its trusted friend and partner China.

“It should be made clear that our future is tied with China, which has stood by Pakistan through thick and thin. Both countries recognise each other’s importance and are further strengthening mutual ties,” Khan stated in a television interview.

“Unfortunately, western countries are using India against China,” he added.

Khan also rejected what he called rumours about “rifts” with Saudi Arabia, saying “they have their own foreign policy”.

It is pertinent to mention here that while Pakistan has not been happy with the performance of OIC, specifically on the Kashmir issue, Beijing has taken its side on raising the issue of Kashmir at global platforms like the United Nations.

With Pakistan cozying up with China, experts believe that Islamabad may be sliding away from the financial dependency and alliance with Saudi Arabia.

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