In the last period, we are witnessing a significant strengthening of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. When Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif came to power in Pakistan in May 2013, the course in this country's foreign policy was taken on regionalism, strengthening ties with neighboring states. Paying due attention to relations with the countries of the “near abroad” (Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Turkey), Islamabad also emphasized the development of relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf, highlighting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) from them.
Among the main reasons that are currently pushing countries towards each other are the following:
- Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long-standing military-political and economic relations dating back to the 60 of the twentieth century;
- To some extent, the time has come for Navah Sharif to “repay debts” (recall that it was Riyadh’s intervention in 2001 that influenced the Pakistan Supreme Court to abolish the death penalty of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif on high treason, later the monarchy provided him political asylum on its territory);
- The area covering the countries of West Asia, the Persian Gulf, and North Africa is currently in the process of forming a new regional leader in the person of an independent power or alliance of countries. In recent years, the world has witnessed two factors. The first is that the withdrawal of the US / NATO / ISAF coalition troops from Afghanistan is tantamount to leaving the region of such a world held as the USA, and everyone understands that this is a leaving with defeat. The potential vacuum will inevitably be filled by another major regional power, for example, China, India, or an association of small states. The second factor is that many recognized leaders of the Islamic world are physically eliminated; many of the recognized leaders of the Islamic world have been removed from power: in Palestine, J. Arafat, in Syria, Assad Sr., in Libya, M. Gaddafi, in Egypt, H. Mubarak.
Based on this, the strategic partnership of Islamabad and Riyadh is in the interests of the Islamic Ummah, and, taking into account its interests, will lobby for the interests of Washington in the region.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the special status of the land of Islam, highly revered by all Muslims. Religious affinity, geographic proximity, the importance of the geostrategic position of Pakistan, the Pakistani labor force in the Gulf countries (according to Pakistani media - in Saudi Arabia - 1.5 million migrant workers from Pakistan) make this country a close ally of Saudi Arabia on many major international and regional issues.
In the late 60s, Islamabad supported the construction of the KSA's national defense forces. Both countries had a similar position on the issue of the war in Afghanistan in the 80s of the twentieth century, financially and military-technical support for the Afghan mujahideen. Since then saudi arabia has historical relations with the Taliban. In May 1998, Islamabad conducted its first nuclear tests, and Riyadh came out in support of it (recall, this happened during the second term of the premiership of Nawaz Sharif). The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates officially recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and maintained diplomatic relations with it from 1996-2001.
A similar position explains the cooling of the monarchy’s relations with General P. Musharraf in September 2001 (headed by Pakistan in 1999 - 2008) when he joined Washington’s antiterrorist campaign. Riyadh described the rupture of his relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan as a betrayal. But, at the same time, this did not prevent the Saudis from continuing to build their own relations with right-wing religious leaders, anti-federal elements in Pakistan. Riyadh’s support for the Afghan Taliban, and later for the Pakistani, helped Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States to mediate in the negotiation process in Kabul and Islamabad, and opened the Taliban’s representation in Saudi Arabia.
The relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia received a new impulse when the government of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PNP) came to power in 2008 - 2013. Parties noted common views on regional and international issues; outlined a plan of action designed to use the existing institutional mechanisms to further expand the strategic partnership, to sign the Free Trade Agreement. It should be noted that the intention of Riyadh to provide trade benefits to Islamabad was partly aimed at blocking the signing of the Pakistan-Iran gas agreement. KSA was reserved about the political career of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the PNP. The signing of a gas pipeline construction agreement with 2013 in March with the then Iranian President M. Ahmadinejad convinced the monarchy to wait for the parliamentary elections and support the new leader of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.
The main suppliers of hydrocarbon raw materials to Pakistan are the countries of the Near and Middle East - the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. At the same time, Riyadh dominates sales, transporting up to 70 percent of the total volume of crude oil imported by Islamabad; and he is committed to increasing purchases.
The short period of the third term of the premiership of Nawaz Sharif is characterized by the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and the KSA, both at the international and interstate levels. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in October 2013 supported the candidacy of the Ambassador of Pakistan, Muhammad Naim Khan, to the post of Assistant Secretary General of the Asian branch of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It should also not be forgotten that on the issue of bilateral cooperation, it was Nawaz Sharif who called for "the development of a new era of strategic partnership between states."
2014 held two important visits of members of the royal family to Pakistan - in January, the KSA Foreign Minister visited Islamabad, 15 - 17 February, the Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman Ben Abdelaziz Al-Saud discussed a package of contracts for the purchase of military equipment and equipment from Islamabad equipment. And he just returned from Saudi Arabia, Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General R. Sharif, where the focus was on security and defense issues.
Regarding the development of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the KSA, one should not disregard such a factor as the memory of generations. The influence of Saudi Arabia and the United States on Pakistan’s foreign policy increased dramatically after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. And eleven years after the withdrawal of a limited contingent from Afghanistan, Washington forgot all its promises to Islamabad, then Riyadh remained committed to this country. This explains the unconditional rapprochement of the positions of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2014 on the eve of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Despite further strengthening ties between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the history of relations has negative episodes. 54 000 Pakistanis were deported from KSA territory only during the period from May to November 2013, while 800 000 Pakistanis legalized their status in Saudi Arabia for the same period. The monarchy strictly adheres to domestic policies towards labor migrants.
The unification of the positions of Muslim states on the example of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on many international issues in potential (with a combination of other factors) can lead to a change in the paradigm of the entire vast region from Western Asia, the Persian Gulf, North Africa; to the formation of a “true Islamic leader” in the region.
The strengthening of cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (PRI) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in the field of defense and security reflects many of the current political trends in the vast region of the Middle East on both sides of the Strait of Hormuz.
The events of the “Arab Spring”, the political reformatting of the region, the departure of recognized authorities of the Arab world (Y. Arafat, M. Gaddafi, H. Mubarak), and finally, the changing paradigm of the Syrian conflict put Riyadh questions on the one hand, on political leadership, the formation of a new center of power; on the other, on the security of its economic, territorial and other interests. To this, we should add the justified concerns related to the recent unrest in Bahrain (in March 2011-th Riyadh sent a limited military contingent), Yemen, Iraq with its Shiite dominance, as well as with the strengthening positions of the constitutional monarchy of Jordan, the strengthening of Shiite’s foreign policy as a result of the weakening of international economic sanctions.
The crisis in Syria is a separate file in the KSA regional file. Riyadh in armed conflict plays a major role. At the initial stage, the goal was the armed overthrow of President B. Assad. As the internal war tightened and spread in Syria, the positions of the world powers and Riyadh itself were adjusted.
By the end of 2013, the situation changed, on the one hand, after the United States refused (as part of international efforts) to launch missile-bombing attacks on Syrian targets; on the other hand, the rampant Islamist radicals pushed the monarchy to understand the possible way out of control, and that Riyadh is left alone with the jihadism in the region. In this case, the “ninth wave” of criminal extremism can have an uncontrollable directory and fall on Saudi Arabia itself, which has not yet been affected by the “Arab spring”.
All this convinced Riyadh to adjust its foreign policy and re-think about changing the balance of power, strengthening its position in the region. He appeals to a reliable proven regional partner - Islamabad, forcing political and military agreements with him.
In turn, for Islamabad it has always been prestigious and beneficial to maintain allied contacts with Riyadh. Saudi Arabia, since the 60-ies of the twentieth century, has provided diplomatic, economic and political support to Pakistan. Traditional bilateral relations in the field of defense, hydrocarbon dependence (monarchy supplies up to 70% of crude oil), mediation of the royal family in internal political differences of the ruling elite and the opposition (during the military, civilian, civil administrations), mediator role in Pakistan and the United States Finally, personal sympathy, etc. - all this pushed the capitals towards each other.
But it was with a statement on Syria that Riyadh and Islamabad launched a joint political communique broadcast to the whole world. It should be emphasized that it was made in the framework of the visit of 15 - 17 in February of 2014 to Pakistan by Crown Prince Salman Ben Abdel Aziz Al-Saud, KAA’s Minister of Defense. Both sides expressed the need to find a quick solution to the conflict in Syria according to the UN resolution in order to restore peace and security in the country and prevent the bloodshed of the Syrian people. In particular, the parties confirmed the importance of:
- immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and illegal elements from the territory of Syria;
- lifting of the siege of Syrian cities and villages and the cessation of air and artillery shelling;
- the creation of safe corridors and regions for the supply of food and humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian citizens under international control;
- the formation of a transitional governing body with broad powers of executive power, which will allow it to take responsibility for the situation in the country.
Islamabad and previously adhered to similar positions. With the outbreak of hostilities in Syria, he expressed concern about the "upheavals and unrest" in this country, which is "an integral part of the Muslim Ummah; warned that the long-term instability in Syria will have serious consequences for the region. Islamabad supported the Six Point Peace Plan, developed by UN special envoy Kofi Annan on respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Further, despite the long-standing strong ties with Ankara, Islamabad condemned the shelling of Syria from Turkish territory, calling it “reprehensible, and advised the Syrian government to exercise extreme caution in this matter”; spoke out against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, supported the UN investigative team conducting an investigation into the SAR.
Islamabad’s approach to the issue is dictated by its concept of protecting sovereignty and territorial integrity, in particular, its position on the border issue condemning cross-border crossings from Afghanistan, and the inviolability of the Line of Control in the border region of Kashmir with India. Therefore, the latest statements of Riyadh on Syria fully coincided with the position of Islamabad.
Looking ahead, we note that the Pakistan-Saudi meetings were held against the backdrop of the unfolding dialogue of the federal government with the banned Pakistani Taliban (DTP) movement. Islamabad / Riyadh’s harsh statements about the inadmissibility of armed attacks (as a method of achieving its goals) against the federal army, the civilian population (primarily religious minorities) should be viewed as a warning to Pakistani and Afghan militants. It is known that starting from the 80-ies, KSA financially and arms supported the Afghan Mujahideen. In Pakistan, in addition to the generals and the ruling elite, the main focus group was and remains the religious parties. Some of them, as well as a large number of madrassas in Pakistan, received and receive funds from state and non-state sources in the countries of the Persian Gulf and, above all, Saudi Arabia. Currently, several of these parties have formed a committee and speak on behalf of the accident in negotiations with Islamabad.
The cooperation of the two countries in the field of defense began in the second half of the 60-ies of the twentieth century, and developed in two main areas: training of middle and senior commanders of the KSA armed forces by the Pakistani military and purchase of weapons in Pakistan. In 1967, a Bilateral Cooperation Program between the Armed Forces of the two countries was launched. In December, the Saudi-Pakistani Armed Forces Organization was established with 1982 headquarters in Riyadh. In addition to the paragraphs on the training of professional personnel and the maintenance by Pakistani specialists of military equipment on Saudi territory, the agreement included a provision on joint cooperation in the field of military production and scientific research. Half a century later, the trends remained the same, but the changes affected an increase in the number of military specialists and financial flows. The main difference from previous times is that at present CSA is interested in the defense industry potential of Islamabad.
In 1990, the Iran-Iraq war changed the perception of the leaders of Saudi Arabia about the security of its borders. This prompted Riyadh and Islamabad to begin negotiations on the deployment of a limited contingent of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia. In turn, the presence of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia has quarreled Islamabad with Tehran.
A new stage of cooperation in the field of defense and security was launched in 2004, then for the first time joint military exercises of the two armies were held under the name Al-Samsaam (Sharp Sword). It was decided to conduct them on a regular basis (the last exercises took place in 2011).
In 2010 - 2011 For a number of reasons, the authorities of Saudi Arabia again faced the problem of hiring Pakistani troops. The situation demanded an early settlement, which prompted Riyadh to appeal to the civilian government of Pakistan. The monarchy was wary of the political career of President Asif Ali Zardari, and mainly negotiated with the then chief of staff of the ground forces, General AP Kiyani. The main topic was to get Pakistan’s support in the direction of staff officers (retired) to Bahrain to strengthen the security forces, as well as sending security personnel to Saudi Arabia to localize possible internal unrest. All this corresponded to the concept of Riyadh on the formation of a "single military force, a clear chain of command," declared later in 2012 by Prince Turki Al-Faisal.
In 2011, few people paid attention to the words of the then chief of staff of the ground forces, General AP Kiyani, who characterized Saudi Arabia "... the most important country for Pakistan." That year was full of events that led to a sharp confrontation in the Pak-US relations, which turned Islamabad’s foreign policy vector away from Washington. In contrast to the opportunistic political elite, the generals remained committed to historically established military ties with the Arab monarchies, and especially with the KSA.
At present, according to many analysts, Saudi Arabian security forces are able to cope with most internal problems. However, their plans remain the use of foreign troops (primarily Sunnis) in emergency situations, if the situation gets out of control.
The diplomatic traffic between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has been extremely saturated in recent months. 6 - 7 January 2014. The first visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia to Islamabad took place after 2013 took office in June as Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Soon, the Deputy Minister of Defense KSA flew to Pakistan. It was then at the briefing at the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan that the question was raised about signing a number of bilateral agreements, including on defense and security issues, about Saudi Arabia’s interest in buying Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighter jets. A few days later, 4 - 6 in February, 2014 held talks with senior political and military leaders of the KSA, developing bilateral relations with a special focus on cooperation in the field of security and defense led by Pakistani Army Headquarters during a three-day visit to Ern Riyadh, where, in particular, issues of coordination of joint Al-Samsaam exercises in 2014 were raised.
CSA Crown Prince Salman Ben Abdulaziz Al Saud on arrival in Pakistan discussed and confirmed funding for a number of economic projects. At the same time, he visited a number of military sites; He expressed interest in purchasing Pak-China JF-17 Thunder jet fighter jet fighters and expressed his intention to participate in this project.
The principal agreement between Islamabad and Riyadh on the contract for the supply of military equipment has been reached. It can be concluded within the framework of a large-scale agreement on military-technical cooperation. Many analysts consider it in linking the strained relations of Pakistan / Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the United States.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan denied information about nuclear cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in response to the publication of the Air Force in November 2013 about such cooperation described it as "completely baseless and harmful." Islamabad adheres to a similar position at present, rejecting all data on cooperation. However, recently the world press is full of reports of a possible nuclear deal between Islamabad and Riyadh. What is the basis of potential nuclear cooperation and why is the question relevant now?
Riyadh showed interest in Pakistan’s nuclear program back in the spring of 1998, when in May of this year Islamabad conducted the first nuclear tests in Balochistan province. The decision to test the explosion of a nuclear device in Chagai was made by the Defense Committee of the country's upper chamber (Senate), chaired by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (during the second term in power, February 1997 - October 1999). Riyadh supported Islamabad, promising to supply crude oil at reduced rates in response to Washington’s economic sanctions at the end of the 90 of the XX century.
Despite the fact that Pakistan’s nuclear tests were a response to similar ones conducted by New Delhi a few days earlier, Saudi Arabia pursued its own interests. By that time, the long-term experience of Pakistan-Saudi cooperation in the field of defense and security had been accumulated. Rawalpindi (the location of the Pakistan Army ground staff) seconded its specialists to train KSA military personnel, in turn, the Saudi monarchy supplied weapons to Islamabad. Since its development, Pakistan’s nuclear program has been central to the country's defense doctrine, and the monarchy was counting on “providing Pakistan with a nuclear security umbrella as needed”, which, in turn, brought countries closer together on many international issues. In the case of a hypothetical attack on KSA, Riyadh must have been working on the issue of an adequate response, using the nuclear potential of Islamabad.
In 2011, on the eve of international sanctions against Iran, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence department, said that "if Iran develops nuclear weapons ... everyone in the region will do the same."
The world media again raised the issue of nuclear cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in 2013, and its relevance was dictated by several factors of domestic, regional and world order. “Arab Spring” events, political reformatting of most Middle Eastern countries, Geneva 24 agreements in November 2013 aimed at easing sanctions against Iran, withdrawing US / NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan, activity of Pakistan’s foreign policy on Persian direction in the second half of 2013 - beginning 2014 etc. - all these components and to be considered.
First, the rejection of the Iranian nuclear program is one of the dominant factors of the regional policy of Riyadh. In previous years, before the events of 2011 in the Middle East, the White House provided Saudi Arabia with certain security guarantees against the nuclear threat of Iran. However, KSA doubts appeared long before 24 in November of 2013, and after “Geneva 1” they were confirmed. The monarchy fears that Iran’s nuclear “printing out” will entail a violation of the existing balance of forces in the region. Currently, Saudi Arabia expresses dissatisfaction with the United States and Western countries in the matter of easing sanctions against Tehran. The anti-American and anti-Saudi sentiments of the Shiite population of Iran have repeatedly in the past fueled the discontent of the Shiites of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc., and the Persian Gulf monarchies fear Shiite uprisings. Many political analysts expressed the opinion that the use of nuclear weapons was unlikely, but at the same time there was a suggestion that Riyadh was concerned about the limited conflict.
Nuclear weapons in the history of mankind have been used once, and in the modern world for a number of decades have been a deterrent. Without possessing its own, Riyadh is interested in the use of nuclear weapons at the disposal of the armed forces of Pakistan as a factor in deterring any armed aggression against KSA. And in this regard, the monarchy is interested in developing political and economic cooperation with Islamabad, and is ready to provide financial support for the development of the defense potential of this country. In turn, the improvement of the nuclear potential of Islamabad can be used by it as a lever of political pressure in the region, on relations with India, Iran, etc. In November, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry 2013 stated that "Pakistan’s nuclear program is designed exclusively for its own self-defense and to maintain the level of minimum deterrence."
Secondly, the tension in the whole relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The first signs appeared in 2012, when the modern US administration actually abandoned its longtime ally H. Mubarak, the overthrown President of Egypt, to the mercy of fate. The ease with which B. Obama supported his successor M. Mursi, became an illustrative lesson for all the monarchies of the Persian Gulf.
Remains acute, for example, for Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian issue. Riyadh openly criticized the Western allies for apostasy in supporting the Syrian opposition. KSA, seeking to expand the circle of sympathizers, attracted Pakistan to the call to support the coalition government in Syria.
Third, consider a factor such as the withdrawal of US / NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan in 2014. This will entail a weakening of Islamabad’s strategic cooperation with Washington, as it was at the end of the twentieth century 90 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Such a development is likely to entail the need to replace US economic assistance to Pakistan with Saudi, and in this context Islamabad can really rely on the assistance of Riyadh. In March, 2014, Riyadh, has already allocated $ 1.5 to Islamabad. Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Foreign Policy Aziz confirmed that this amount was provided for the purpose of providing economic support. Financial investments in the economy of Pakistan entail the strengthening of Riyadh’s ideological, political, and military influence on Islamabad. At the same time, Islamabad firmly adheres to the position that the country's nuclear program is fully funded from national resources and developed by domestic scientists.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia primarily raise security issues, as they are united by a common strategic space in the region. Given the above, Islamabad considers for itself the right to answer for Riyadh’s request for nuclear cooperation (in one form or another).