What will Kashmiris get as a result of PM Imran’s Saudi visit?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:29 PM, 9 May, 2021
Saudi visit
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcoming Prime Minister Imran Khan in Red Sea city of Jeddah on May 8. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan signed agreements today to improve ties, after months of strained relations between the close allies over the disputed region of Kashmir.–AFP

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia has been very successful as it has brought the ties between the two Islamic countries back on track after some temporary setback last year and opened a number of fields for future cooperation that will help Islamabad improve its sagging economy.  

However, what is clear from the joint statement issued on Saturday is that Saudi Arabia will not play the kind of role most people in Pakistan want it to play for the rights of the oppressed people of occupied Kashmir

The part of the joint statement about Pakistan and India says: Crown Prince welcomed the recent understanding reached between the military authorities of Pakistan and India regarding ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), which is based on a 2003 understanding between Pakistan and India. The two sides emphasized the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to ensure peace and stability in the region.

To be fair, this is a kind of statement the like of which were made millions of times from various forums and were thrown into dustbin by India. 

It doesn’t say anything about the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution as a result of which New Delhi illegally annexed occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Also, the statement doesn’t call upon India not to change the demographic composition of Kashmir

These are the major demands which Pakistan has been consistently raising since the Aug 5, 2019 step taken by India. 

Saudi Arabia, because of its status among the Muslim states, is expected to play an effective role for the rights of Muslims across the world.  

In Pakistan, an overwhelming majority believes that India would have to change its oppressive policy about Kashmiris if Saudi Arabia uses its influence for the purpose. In fact, they think that New Delhi would come to its knees if oil-rich KSA and other OIC states stand behind the Kashmiris. 

But it is unfortunate that the Islamic countries are not playing the kind of role they are expected to play. Probably, for them economic interests are more important than their religious obligations towards their oppressed Kashmiri brethren. 

It will not be wrong to say that it is because of lack of unity among the Islamic countries that India feels free to subject the Kashmiris to all kinds of atrocities. 

Pakistan and India are already engaged in backchannel negotiations in which all relevant matters are being discussed. The joint statement referred to above is not likely to have any bearing on India’s attitude.  

A day after the issuance of the joint statement, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia will work to encourage reduction in tension between Pakistan India. 

"On [the] relationship with India, I really want to commend [on] what has been achieved recently of a calming of tensions and a ceasefire. This is an excellent step in the right direction," Prince Faisal said. 

His remarks came during an interview with Radio Pakistan

The minister said, "We will work to encourage the process and make sure that the tensions continue to be reduced between both [the] nations." 

"We have growing good relations with India and I hope [that with the approach] we can help everybody work towards the reduction of tension," the Saudi foreign minister added. 

“[The] focus is on building a much stronger investment climate between the two nations, to facilitate bilateral investment in KSA and Pakistan.” 

On facilitating the Pakistani workforce in KSA, he said, “We have recently introduced some significant labour reforms. This is a contribution for the Pakistanis employed in the kingdom to find prosperity.” 

As for bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Saturday’s joint statement says the two sides discussed ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations by exploring areas of investment and opportunities available in light of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 and Pakistan’s development priorities emanating from a shift from geo-politics to geo-economics.

The discussions also focused on increasing cooperation in other fields, including energy, science, technology, agriculture and culture. Both sides expressed satisfaction at existing cooperation in bilateral military and security relations, and agreed to further augment collaboration and cooperation to achieve mutually agreed goals.

The two leaders also discussed issues pertaining to the Islamic world. They stressed the need for concerted efforts by the Muslim countries to confront extremism and violence, reject sectarianism, and strive to achieve international peace and security.

They also stressed the importance of continuing joint efforts to combat terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations. They reaffirmed that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization, or ethnic group.

The statement is very encouraging but only future developments will manifest the real outcome of Prime Minister Khan’s high- profile visit.