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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jan 17, 2019

Pakistan enjoys ‘special place’ in hearts of Saudi regime

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep ties but there was a need to further strengthen this bond through people-to-people contact.
This was stated by the former ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to Pakistan Dr Ali Awadh Asseri at a seminar on the “Contours of Saudi Arabia Foreign Policy” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday.
Dr Asseri stated that Riyadh’s relationship with Islamabad can be summarised in just three words, “unique, profound and durable”.
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Noting that the incomparable relationship knew no limits, he said that Pakistan enjoys a special place in the heart of the kingdom’s new leadership.
He stressed the need for strengthening the bilateral relationship beyond official ties in terms of improving people-to-people contact, enhancing engagement with the private sector and academia.
The former envoy noted that there was a dynamic and young leadership at the helm in Saudi Arabia at the moment which has more love and affection for the people of Pakistan.
Dr Asseri reminded that KSA has always defended Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir at international forums and extended unflinching economic help in testing times such as during the 2005 earthquake and more recently offered around $6 billion as support against a looming economic crisis.
He reiterated that in his forthcoming visit, KSA Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is expected to announce investments worth billions of dollars, including the construction of an oil refinery and a petrochemical complex apart from investment in the renewable energy and mining sectors.
International Institute for Iranian Studies (RASANAH) Chairman Dr Mohammed Saqr Alsulami spoke of the fractious Saudi-Iran relationship and that it had witnessed many ups and downs since the 1979 Islamic revolution before reaching another peak after the Arab Spring.
“Regardless the nature of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, we have no choice but to resolve our outstanding issues through working together and bridging the trust deficit,” Dr Alsulami said.
However, he added that if Tehran moves forward positively, neighbouring countries were sure to respond positively to improved ties.
He said that both Riyadh and Tehran have to build the trust, as both can do a lot of things together to bring stability and prosperity for its people and the region.
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“KSA wants to have better ties of peace and stability having least tensions with its neighbours and outer world,” he added.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that if Islamabad wanted to play the role of mediator between Tehran and Riyadh, then Pakistan needs to understand the nature of the historic ties between the two countries.  He was convinced that Pakistan can help in solving the outstanding political rifts between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“To gain the maximum benefits from the growing services economy of KSA, Pakistan has to prepare its human resource,” he added.