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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia relations strained in recent years

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia relations strained in recent years
January 05
12:23 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have deep diplomatic and military ties, but their relations have been strained in recent years after Islamabad reportedly refused a request by Riyadh to contribute troops to the Yemen war.

Moreover, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has angered the Saudi Arabians, yet again. He hosted a recent meeting on December 28, 2021, with Saudi envoy. It underscores a given that demeanour and even sitting position can impact diplomacy, reported The Singapore Post. Receiving Ambassador Nawaf bin Said al-Malki, in Islamabad, Qureshi can be seen sitting with one leg crossed and the other pointing in Al-Malki’s direction.

This was deemed offensive by many Saudis who think Qureshi ‘insulted’ their envoy, The New Arab reported. Many Saudis took to social media to express their disapproval of the Pakistani FM’s seating position stating his demeanour was ‘the height of foolishness and ignorance’.

“Pakistani foreign minister receives Saudi ambassador in Pakistan with unmatched hospitality,” said one user sarcastically. Another one in a tone full of sarcasm, wrote, “If there is no strong reason (medical) for the Pakistani foreign minister to receive the kingdom’s ambassador in this way, then this is the height of impudence and foolishness and ignorance of the basics of diplomatic protocol,” reported The Singapore Post.

There was no official word from either government. But the Saudi Embassy put out a photograph on social media showing the two representatives of the “brotherly countries” engaged in discussions on issues of mutual interests to their governments. The photograph did not show Qureshi’s legs and sitting posture.

This is not the first time Qureshi has got into Saudi crosshairs. His diatribe in mid-2020 expressing ‘disappointment’ at the ‘failure’ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to host foreign ministers meet to discuss the Kashmir issue nearly touched off a diplomatic row.

The Saudis, who have deep ties with, and hence, influence in Pakistan’s affairs, were angry and despite a damage control visit by Pakistani Army Chief General Bajwa to Riyadh, demanded that Pakistan return the USD 3 billion lent to it earlier as an emergency loan. They also called off the concessional sale of petrol and gas, hurting a fledgling Pakistani economy further, reported The Singapore Post.

The Saudis suspected, for some reason, that Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to “switch sides” by getting closer to Turkey whom the Saudis and other Gulf nations view as a usurper.

Khan did get cosy with President Erdogan and then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But when the Saudis cracked the whip, he refrained from attending a conference Mahathir organised in Kuala Lumpur.

Surveys by Pew Research Center, a think tank based in Washington, have shown that although Saudi-Pak relations are “brotherly” and Pakistan’s ties with China are those of “iron brothers”, the people of these countries do not necessarily hold the Pakistanis in high esteem.

The donor-donee relationship cuts across all the high-sounding sentiments and diplomatic words, reported The Singapore Post.

For any Pakistani leader, relations with Saudi Arabia, especially its royalty, are key to political acceptability at home, since Saudi Arabia is the seat of Islam’s highest shrine. (ANI) 

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