The Unshakable Saudi- Pak Relations amidst the Changing Dynamics in South Asia

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Achieving and securing ones national interests is the cornerstone of a country’s foreign policy in global politics. Therefore friendship among states is also based on either having common foes or having similar interests and objectives.  The recent Royal visit of the Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan confirms the fact that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan share an unshakable trustworthy relationship. There are several interpretations of the phrase “a friend in need is a friend indeed” one interpretation refers to someone who helps you in time of need. Similarly another interpretation suggests that someone who is in need will become your friend. The Saudi Arabian help offered to Pakistan in the aftermath of the economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan in 1998 is just one example of a true friendship. The recent visit of the Saudi crown prince to South Asia including Pakistan has left international observers speculating the reason for this royal visit. Some international observers see this royal visit to Pakistan and India as a part of MBS’s image management strategy. This view further contends that the kingdom wants to regain the lost confidence of its investors in the wake of the Jamal Khashogi’s   incident.   As relations between Riyadh and Washington got intense, many observers questioned if the US could stop other countries from buying the Saudi oil.  As Saudi Arabia controls OPEC, hence it can disrupt the demand and supply equation creating a situation similar to the 1973 oil embargo. Therefore there in no possibility that the US would pressurize other states to boycott the Saudi oil.

Most of the international observers agree that the plausibility of the Saudi oil drying someday has compelled the kingdom to reduce its dependence on the US. As Iran tries to extend its influence in the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria and the US Congress considers withdrawing military assistance to Saudi war on Yemen.  Saudi Arabia has all the right reasons to look towards engaging with regional powers in South Asia and East Asia.  Furthermore Saudi Arabia is certain that Asian powers have a part to play in the execution of its Vision 2030 plan.

The Saudi royal visit to Pakistan has surely established a new era of trade and economic corporation between Islamabad and Riyadh.  The pledge of $ 20 billion investment in Pakistan is bound to bring extraordinary financial returns to Saudi Arabia besides making Pakistan prosperous.  Furthermore, $ 8 billion have been pledged for the construction of oil refinery at the Gwadar port setting a new era of Saudi Pak relations.   Pakistan despite having strong brotherly ties with Saudi Arabia must consider the fact that securing ones national interests is of paramount importance in International politics.  Therefore the Saudi Aramco’s investment to build  “Ratnagiri” the world’s largest single location refinery complex in India worth $ 45 billion should come as no surprise.  Furthermore, the royal visit to China has resulted in reaching deals worth $ 28 billion in petro chemical, renewable resources and counter terrorism.

Considering the changing dynamics in South Asia, some international observers are wondering what to expect from Saudi Arabia’s participation in CPEC.  Since China is also dependent on South Asia for its energy security, it can reap the benefits from the proposed oil pipeline from the Middle East.  However, one view contends that the participation of Saudi Arabia can drag China into complications owing to the hostile relations between Iran and the Gulf States.  Many international observers believe that Saudi Arabia by stepping into CPEC would definitely reduce Chinese sole influence over Gwadar port.  Consequently the involvement of Saudi Arabia in CPEC reduces the US fear of Gwadar port potentially becoming a Chinese naval base.  Analysts in Washington believe that with the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in CPEC , Islamabad would better integrate into the Riyadh camp.  Resultantly Pakistan would become a part of the US Saudi alliance completing the larger picture of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.  Some observers however believe that the involvement of Saudi Arabia in CPEC is a clever tactic of drifting Islamabad away from Beijing.

As change is the only constant reality therefore the dynamics in South Asia are also bound to experience a change as time progresses.  However, without overlooking the fact that every nation state has its own interest both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can continue to trust each other.

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