Prime Minister Imran Khan played down differences with longtime ally Saudi Arabia as Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Riyadh, saying the two countries had no differences.
Gen Bajwa’s current visit is taking place at an important juncture. The United Arab Emirates had last week reached an agreement with Israel and the United States to normalise ties with the Jewish state. Reportedly more Arab countries would be joining the Emiratis in normalising ties with Israel.
Moreover, the army chief ’s visit is being viewed in the context of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s criticism of the Saudi Arabia-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for not convening the meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir. However, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar earlier said the visit had been planned long before the controversy erupted.
Gen Bajwa’s trip, analysts say, would also try to overcome the minor hiccup in ties caused by the foreign minister’s statement.
“The rumours that our relations with Saudi Arabia have soured are totally false,” the premier said in an interview with Dunya News on Tuesday night.
“Our relations are very good. We are constantly in touch.”
Army Chief Gen Bajwa travelled to Saudi Arabia on Monday for a one-day visit that was “primarily military-affairs oriented”, the army said.
“On the Kashmir issue, there is a view that OIC should have stepped forward,” Prime Minister Imran said.
“Saudi has its own foreign policy. We shouldn’t think that because we want something Saudi will do just that,” he added.
Maj Gen Iftikhar had last Thursday, while responding to queries about Qureshi’s remarks, said: “There is no need to raise questions about these (Pak-Saudi) ties.” He said there could be “no doubt about the centrality of KSA in Muslim world”.