Source Gulf News
Saudia Arabia is terrified that ISIS may attack them. They have bolstered their borderes with huge tank traps and masses of barbed wire. The latest is this report about getting Pakistan to help them
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud held talks at his palace yesterday with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Islamabad: Saudi Arabia is to press Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to boost the number of Pakistani troops in the kingdom to help bolster Riyadh’s defences against militants, including Daesh.
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, landed in Riyadh on Wednesday on a three-day visit. He was received at the King Khalid Airport by the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Soon after arrival, the Prime Minister was accorded a warm welcome at the airport and was given a guard of honor.
The Prime Minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation including Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif and Special Assistant Syed Tariq Fatemi.
While diplomats stress the close ties between the countries, Sharif’s trip — his third this year — comes amid profound challenges facing the bilateral relationship.
The countries’ close relationship has been built on common security interests going back to the 1970s, when the Saudi oil boom created employment for a large number of Pakistanis. Islamabad deepened the relationship in the ensuing years by assuming responsibility for some of Saudi Arabia’s internal security needs.
“Saudi Arabia is both a friend and a source of a continuing problem,” said a senior Pakistani official ahead of Sharif’s departure. “This relationship provides opportunities and challenges.”
It is not clear how many Pakistani troops there are currently in Saudi Arabia, though it is understood the numbers deployed are modest. And analysts say Islamabad is cautious about broadening its security relationship with Riyadh.
“There is uncertainty in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia deals with the wider Daesh-related challenge,” says Mahmud Durrani, a former national security adviser to Sharif. “Pakistan has to be careful to avoid getting embroiled in a relationship with the Saudis which only exposes us to new controversies.”
“In the 1980s the Saudis were keen to keep Pakistani troops as this helped counter the Iranian threat,” says one former Pakistani army general who served in the kingdom. “For the Saudis, the relationship with Pakistan guarantees both against internal dissent and external threats”.
The relationship strengthened in 1998 when Saudi Arabia began giving oil to Pakistan to help the country overcome the effect of international financial sanctions following its maiden nuclear tests. The arrangement lasted almost three years.
More recently in early 2014, Saudi Arabia lent $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) to Pakistan to shore up the country’s foreign reserves after a visit to Islamabad by then crown prince Salman. The full terms of the loan were not revealed, although Pakistani finance ministry officials said at the time the loan was interest-free.
Analysts warn that it would be overly optimistic of Saudi Arabia to expect large-scale new deployments of troops from its neighbour amid a heightened domestic security challenge highlighted by the Taliban massacre of 150 people, mostly schoolchildren, in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar. “Right now, we need our manpower at home as Pakistan deals with its own security challenges,” says Ikram Sehgal, a defence analyst.
But Sehgal says Pakistan may seek to meet the Saudi request halfway, for example by sending fewer troops but for a longer-term deployment, with possible pledges of a quick reaction force if needed.
“Given the way this relationship has evolved, Pakistan is in no shape to go for an outright refusal to the Saudis,” he says. “A via media of some kind will have to be found which satisfies the Saudis without compromising Pakistan’s own interests.”