Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia remain as strong as ever, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday rubbishing talk of the latter demanding debt payment as speculation. Oil imports from Saudi Arabia continue, he assured.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi opined that Saudi Arabia had bided its time before taking a stance with regards to the Palestinian conflict as well. “Our stance on Kashmir is our own and we will continue to voice it,” said Qureshi.
Saudi and Pakistan’s relations haven’t changed, he stressed, adding that the premier has made clear Islamabad’s position on Palestine, in accordance with the Quaid’s vision.
Last week, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa met with Saudi military leadership and discussed military-to-military ties, training exchanges in efforts to calm diplomatic strains between the two countries over Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOJK).
Saudi and Pakistan typically share strong ties, and in 2018 Saudi Arabia loaned $3 billion to Pakistan as well as oil credit worth $3.2 billion to assist with the balance of payments crisis.
However, Riyadh is irked by criticism from Pakistan that Saudi Arabia has been lukewarm on the Kashmir’s territorial dispute, two senior military officials told Reuters, prompting General Bajwa’s fence-building visit.
Earlier this month, Pakistan returned $1 billion of the $3 billion debt owed to Saudia Arabia to avoid default on international debt obligations after the kingdom decided to reduce its financial support, highly placed sources said.
Pakistan’s time-tested friend, China, immediately came forward and extended $1 billion in loans to help Islamabad avoid any adverse impact of the partial withdrawal of the Saudi lifeline, sources in the Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported The Express Tribune. The Ministry of Finance had declined to comment while the response of SBP chief spokesman was also awaited by the time of filing of the report, however.
“I have recently returned from a visit to China, which has made clear that it views India’s measures of August 5, 2019 [in Kashmir] illegal,” said Qureshi. China does not stand in agreement with India’s position on Ladhak and Kashmir, he said.
According to Qureshi, the stand off between India and China remains unresolved despite five rounds of negotiations between the two. He categorically rejected India’s objections to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as well.
The foreign minister reiteriated Islamabad’s stance on Kashmir, adding that China supports Pakistan’s demand that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved in line with the United Nation’s resolutions on the matter.
Islamabad does not agree with India’s claim that the IIOJK conflict is its internal mater, said Qureshi, calling for the Kashmiri people’s right to plebiscite.
Moving on to relations with Afghanistan, Qureshi said that Pakistan’s facilitatory role has led to a peace agreement between the United States and the Afghan Taliban. The next logical step is the intra-Afghan dialogue, which should be initiated at the earliest, said Qureshi, adding that a delegation of the Afghan Taliban has also arrived to Pakistan for consultations. China is also in support of the Afghan peace process, he said.
The people of Afghanistan desire peace and stability despite some spoilers wanting disturbance, he remarked.