Saudi’s Crown Prince tried to balance relationship with India and Pakistan

Jatin Desai
Friday, 22 February 2019

The visit was closely observed by the international community as he touched on Indian soil only a day after his visit to Pakistan.

The two-day visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, more widely called MbS, had turned controversial even before he landed in Delhi on February 19, 2019. The visit was closely observed by the international community as he touched on Indian soil only a day after his visit to Pakistan.

The Crown Prince tried to balance Saudi’s relationship with India and Pakistan. This was harder than it would otherwise have been because his visit was against the background of the dastardly terror attack on India’s para-military force in Pulwama, Kashmir.

The PM Narendra Modi went all the way to the airport to receive him, even breaking protocol in the process and laying out the full red carpet as it were. The junior foreign minister of Saudi Arabia Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in Delhi that Masood Azhar should be sanctioned if there is enough evidence.

The Crown Prince is in the ‘news’ for some time. The western media believes that the visit of MbS to India and Pakistan was to refurbish his image especially in the background of  the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and a critic of the Saudi regime. He used to write columns for The Washington Post. On the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Al-jubeir said that the murder of Khashoggi last year was a ‘rogue operation’ by government agents who acted without authority. He was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi is a close ally of the US and its role in the Yemen crisis is questionable. In this background, he visited sub-continent. In Islamabad, setting aside protocol, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan personally drove down MbS from the airport. Saudi Arabia has a very close relationship with Pakistan for many years. Riyadh also provides political asylum to various political leaders of Pakistan when they are in need. Saudi Arabia signed MoUs worth $ 20 billion in Pakistan in the field of power, petrochemical and mining.

The close study of the joint statements signed between Saudi Arabia-Pakistan and Saudi Arabia-India indicates some contradictory positions of Saudi Arabia. The joint statement of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan underlined ‘the need for avoiding politicisation of UN listing regime.’ It was seen as a snub to India as Delhi is working towards listing JeM chief as a ‘global terrorist’. The statement also ‘expressed their deep appreciation for the achievements and sacrifices made by two sides in the war against terrorism’. In Pakistan MbS said, “consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia”. In India he said, “PM Modi is my elder brother. I am his younger brother, I admire him”.

The joint statement of Saudi Arabia and India says, “The two sides also noted the need for concerted action by the international community against terrorism including through early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and underlined the importance of comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organisations by the UN”. Even it goes further and says, “(They) agreed on the need for creation on conditions necessary for the resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan”.  

The statement of Saudi Arabia-Pakistan had no mention of Pulwama attack. Pulwama is mentioned in the statement issued in India. Saudi Arabia’s has said it will work to de-escalate rising tension between India and Pakistan. The Saudi leadership did speak to both Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan on the necessity of de-escalation of tensions.

The joint statement of India-Saudi Arabia neither mentioned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) nor Maulana Masood Azhar. But, it does says, “Both sides called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries; dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist and to cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists perpetrating terrorism from all territories against other states and bring perpetrators of acts of terrorism to justice.”   

The Saudi Arabia leader tried its best to keep both India and Pakistan happy. But, in the global scenario, we cannot forget the role of Saudi in fuelling the militancy in South Asia and Mid-East. Saudi is also the exporter of radical Wahhabism. It is all the more important that India needs to have good relations with Saudi Arabia.

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