Pakistan Saudi growing ties raise eyebrows

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 20 February 2014 0 comments
The Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Salam bin Abdul Aziz’s visit to Pakistan will raise eyebrows. It comes hardly a month after the visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal to Islamabad. Evidently, Faisal came to prepare the ground for the Crown Prince’s visit.
Most certainly, something big is in the making in Saudi-Pakistan relations and, according toPakistani reports, defence cooperation seems to be at the centre of it. Riyadh is boosting the ties with Islamabad against the backdrop of Saudi-Iranian tensions.
Interestingly, Tehran today virtually gave an ultimatum to Pakistan that unless the latter cracked down on cross-border terrorism, Iranian security forces might be compelled to act across the border. Senior Iranian military officials are talking tough. The Jeish Al Adl, which organized a deadly terrorist strike recently in eastern Iran bordering Pakistan is a Wahhabi group and conceivably, it works for Saudi intelligence, which would explain why Islamabad is reluctant to crack down on it.
The huge upswing in the Saudi-Pakistani ties is bound to set alarm bells ringing in Tehran. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has mothballed the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project in accordance with Saudi wishes, apart from due to the US pressure. In all likelihood, Iran-Pakistan ties could enter a tense phase.
This of course would have implications for Afghanistan insofar as Tehran will be extremely wary about the Taliban’s return to power. However, the Saudi maneuvering would also be viewed in the context of the forthcoming visit by US President Barack Obama to Riyadh next month. A new proximity is developing between Washington and Riyadh over Syria. Jerusalem Post reported that Saudis will demand a robust American push for regime change in Syria.
Obviously, there is a military content to the Saudi Crown Prince’s current visit, which, reportedly includes the signing of a defence agreement. Clearly, Saudis are raising the ante in Syria and are planning to supply the rebels with sophisticated weapons. The big question is what role it is that the Saudis could be considering for Pakistan here.
One possibility is that Saudis count on Pakistani advisers and trainers to prepare the Syrian rebel force for the long haul. The sacking of the chief of the US-backed Free Syrian Army Selim Idriss underscores that things are really in bad shape out there.
By M K Bhadrakumar
rediff blog


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