Pak-Saudi Relations: Is the thaw on the Horizon?

The recent months have seen a sharp decline in the cordiality between Islamabad and Riyadh. The Saudi administration called for an immediate payment of loans which Pakistan had borrowed to support the economy. Fortunately, China—being an all-weather friend—quickly rose to the occasion and offered Pakistan the amount to return the loan to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Nevertheless, the media all over the world has observed that how the friendly relations between two countries which share an amicable past, the same religion and the same ideology are falling apart and experiencing a nosedive.

The bitterness in relations is, however, not new. It can be traced all the way back to 2015, when Pakistani Parliament—in a unanimous decision—refused to involve in Yemeni war against Houthi rebels on the call of KSA. This one refusal became sufficient to embitter the brotherly relations between the two countries. After it, the two parties have approached each other on several occasions and tried to mend the fences through trade, investment and economic co-operation, but the relations have not been stable since then.

One manifestation of resentment in relations was also observed last year when KSA, allegedly, prevented Pakistan from participating in Kuala Lumpur Summit, where Muslim leaders from all over the words had gathered to discuss contemporary challenges of Muslim world and the course of action. It was a great display of solidarity among the Muslim countries. However, KSA did not participate—probably due to its reservations for the creation of rival Islamic bloc and its dismissal from the position of Muslim leadership. Hence, Pakistan also denied itself of an opportunity due to the Saudi pressure.

Now, when KSA has withdrawn its plans to invest in Pakistan and also asked for immediate payment of loans, the relations between the two countries are witnessing topsy-turvy circumstances. One hope for the thaw in relations is the upcoming visit of Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan who will meet the PM Imran Khan and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi this month. It is, ostensibly, an attempt to ameliorate the deteriorating relations between the two countries and keep the brotherhood alive. Hence, it can be hoped that both the countries, while putting their differences aside, will seek grounds of convergence and a thaw will be witnessed in the relations of two of the most prominent members of the Muslim world.