Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — strategic partners in peace and development

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By Khan Hasham Bin Saddique

WE are living in challenging times as the contemporary global geopolitical landscape remains highly complex and uncertain. Peace and stability remains elusive across large swaths of the world. It is easy to discern that era of perpetual violence triggered by post traumatic events of 9/11 shows no signs of abating anytime soon. The world today is beset with numerous active conflicts resulting in unprecedented human tragedy and socio-economic problems of epic proportions. Many Muslim countries are especially affected due to the proximity of these simmering disputes. In the backdrop of this strategic flux both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have stood by each other steadfastly. Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the leadership in Pakistan continue to make untiring efforts to promote peace and stability across the world in general and the region in particular.

As we mark 70 years of independence we are proud that despite some challenging times Pakistan is well on the path of progress and prosperity. From a very humble beginning we now occupy an important place in the comity of nations, arguably one of the leading Muslim states in the world. Pakistan has successfully spearheaded the campaign against terrorists for over a decade now. The valiant armed forces and law enforcement personnel have written unparalleled history of courage and sagacity. The general population across the length and breadth of the country too has been resolute and brave to counter the menace. Nearly 60,000 Pakistanis have embraced martyrdom while the loss to national economy runs into billions of dollars. As a nation we stand at the cusp where flushing out of the last remnants of these brutal elements is nearing completion. Let no one doubt our quest and sincerity for lasting peace and stability in the region particularly in our neighborhood. We shall continue to partake in international efforts for peace and value their assistance in order to bring normalcy in Pakistan.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s relations are rooted in history as the two countries signed a treaty of friendship back in 1951, laying the basis for cooperation. We are bonded in strong fraternal relations, which reflect trust and common aspirations of the people. Over the past several decades, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strengthened their brotherly relations in all fields of mutual interest as there exists convergence of views on all issues. Both the countries staunchly support each other at international forums. The regular exchange of high level visits between the two countries is a clear manifestation of our valued ties with the Kingdom. The trend continues and in 2017 alone the prime minister of Pakistan has visited Saudi Arabia twice for exchange of views at the highest level.

The bedrock of Pak-Saudi relations is indeed exceptional defense and security collaboration between the two countries. Decade old ties are all encompassing which include training, joint exercises, high level visits, maintenance support, port calls etc. A number of officers and men have benefited from defense and security cooperation. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have also shared expertise and experience to combat terrorism and deal with extremism. The cooperation is expanding steadily exploring new vistas in context of emerging security paradigm.

Another indicator of the importance of Pak-Saudi relations is the highest regard by the nationals for each other and, in fact, Pakistanis consider Saudi Arabia as their second home. Saudi Arabia is a gracious host to some 2.6 million Pakistanis, most of whom are employed as technicians, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. There are also many highly qualified doctors, engineers, financial advisors, IT

experts and bankers who are highly respected for their quality of professionalism. Pakistani Diaspora is proud to have made tremendous contributions to the development of Saudi Arabia over the past many years. The remittances by these expatriates contribute significantly to our national economy. I am confident with the transformation of Saudi economy under the Saudi Vision 2030, there will be more opportunities for the qualified human resource from Pakistan.

The economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan though remain strong yet there is considerable scope for expansion. The total bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia hovers around $ 2.5 billion. Both countries have immense potential to increase trade significantly. Efforts are being made to improve trade though holding of regular trade shows, exhibitions and exchange of business communities visits. An aspect ,which needs serious attention, is the level of investment despite promising opportunities. I am confident Saudi Vision 2030 and CPEC providing additional framework and tangible avenues will be utilized by both the countries for mutually beneficial investments. I can anticipate a brighter future once CPEC is operational which could be a conduit to facilitate trade between Saudi Arabia and China. Public and private investments in export and industrial zones along the corridor would indeed be a boon.

Saudi Arabia is a revered destination for Pakistanis as every year hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis come to the holy land for performing Umrah and Haj. During 2016, Pakistan topped the list of Umrah pilgrims as around 1.4 million pilgrims from Pakistan visited the Kingdom. The visitors greatly appreciate the top rate arrangements made for performing religious rites. We are pleased to receive every year thousands of Saudi nationals in Pakistan for different purposes, ranging from investment to tourism. Pakistan also offers one of the best quality and affordable medical facilities in the world to various foreign nationals including from Saudi Arabia.

To conclude, Pak-Saudi relations are truly unique and unmatched that have withstood the test of time. The spiritual attachment to the land of Haramains; at Makkah and Madinah and high esteem accorded to Khadim ul Haramain Al-Sharifain by the people of Pakistan means that the bond is concrete and eternal. People of Pakistan remain indebted to the leadership of Saudi Arabia for their help in difficult times. Pakistan is committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should a need arise. I as ambassador of Pakistan hope to carry forward the mission of further strengthening cooperation with Saudi Arabia especially in commercial and cultural fields for the mutual benefit of our two peoples. May Allah bless the two nations with peace, prosperity and infinite bounties.

— The author is the Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia


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