Prime Minister Imran Khan will leave for Saudi Arabia today on a three-day official visit on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

This is PM Imran’s first visit to Saudi Arabia after December 2019 and sixth since assuming office in 2018. This visit comes after brief, estranged ties between the two countries.

During the visit, the premier will discuss with the Saudi leadership all areas of bilateral cooperation including economic, trade, investment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the Kingdom. Today’s main activities will be meeting with Crown Prince MBS, singing of Agreement/MoUs followed by dinner hosted by the Saudi Crown Prince MBS

The two sides will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. A number of bilateral agreements/MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit with the most important one related to climate change.

The prime minister will also meet the Secretary-General of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General of World Muslim League Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. Prime Minister Imran Khan will also interact with the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah.

PM Imran will also raise the matter of release of Pakistani prisoners. In the past, despite the announcement of releasing 2,100 prisoners, a total of 563 were released.

There were some things from both sides that dented the relationship in the last year or so. From Pakistan’s side, PM Imran’s statements in public regarding mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the formation of a new block is what irked Saudi leadership.

While Saudi Arabia’s silence on the Kashmir issue is what irked Pakistani leadership. It can be linked to US pressure on Pakistan through KSA to solve the Kashmir crisis but in discussions, the Saudi side did not hint at the US pressure and instead played hardball on their own.

After this, Pakistan had to return $1billion from $3bn which Saudi Arabia had given as a loan.

In 2019, after India’s move to annex Kashmir, in 45 days’ time, PM Khan and the Saudi crown prince spoke five times to each other over the phone. Last year, the two spoke only two times.

Pakistan’s military leadership has been doing damage control with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa dashing twice to KSA to get a hold of affairs.

The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhary while giving an interview to a Saudi news channel said that Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with Saudi Arabia.”This will be PM Imran’s third visit since assuming office which shows the kind of relationship between the two countries.”

“We believe that Saudi Arabia can play a pivotal role in the Kashmir issue and we [Pakistan] look forward to their support, Fawad added.”

“The premier has also expressed his desire to end the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He is of the view that countries should respect each other’s sovereignty.”

Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing towards the progress and prosperity of both countries. Regular high-level bilateral visits continue to play a pivotal role in providing impetus to the fraternal ties and close cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Anas Mallick is an international journalist who has been working as a field reporter for 7+ years now. With a focus on diplomacy, militancy, and conflict, Mallick's expertise involve Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. He tweets at @AnasMallick


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