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Safdar Sial

Safdar Sial has been working with the Islamabad-based research and policy advocacy organisation Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) as a research analyst since March 2007. His work focuses on conflict, insecurity, and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan; regional political, strategic and sec...
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Emerging dynamics in Pakistani-Saudi relations

Safdar Sial, 27 October 2015

Established in the 1960s, strategic ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have remained largely cordial, except during the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, which Saudis viewed with suspicion due to the PPP’s secular credentials and close relations with Iran. After coming to power in 2013, the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government regained an enthusiasm for diplomatic and strategic ties with Saudi Arabia. However, this enthusiasm was recently watered down when the Pakistani Parliament decided to maintain Pakistan’s traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference in Middle Eastern affairs and refused to send troops to join Saudi-led combat forces in Yemen. This decision was mainly motivated by a growing shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy, which is apparently becoming regionally and China oriented in its outlook and calls for friendly relations with the country’s neighbours, including Iran; and fears that Pakistani involvement in Yemen will negatively affect Pakistan’s sectarian harmony and internal security. Recently, particularly after Pakistan announced its National Action Plan against terrorism, criticism of Saudi Arabia’s alleged funding of madrasas and violent sectarian groups has also increased. Saudi Arabia’s 2014 defence agreement with India had also greatly disturbed Pakistani strategists and policymakers. However, analysts believe that Pakistan will not want these factors to become permanent irritants in its relations with Saudi Arabia.

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