Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s new military chief has held talks with prime Saudi officers, together with the defence minister, on his first official journey to the Gulf kingdom because the South Asian nation faces an unprecedented financial disaster.
Common Syed Asim Munir, who took cost in November, has adopted within the footsteps of his predecessors in visiting Saudi Arabia – a detailed defence and financial ally – on his maiden abroad journey. He may even go to the United Arab Emirates in the course of the practically one-week journey.
“The COAS might be assembly the senior management of each brotherly nations to debate issues of mutual curiosity, military-to-military cooperation and bilateral relations specializing in security-related topics,” the Inter-Companies Public Relations (ISPR), the army’s media wing, mentioned in an announcement on Wednesday.
Common Munir mentioned army cooperation with Saudi defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz within the capital Riyadh on Thursday, in response to the Saudi Press Company.
“We emphasised the strategic partnership between our brotherly nations, reviewed the bilateral army and protection relations, and mentioned methods of strengthening our cooperation,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.
‘Susceptible monetary state of affairs’
The present go to by Common Munir got here at a time when Pakistan confronted a crippling financial disaster because the nation’s international reserves have depleted to lower than $6bn – its lowest since April 2014 – which might simply cowl a month of import. Inflation has been skyrocketing whereas the nation can be coping with the aftermath of final yr’s catastrophic floods that resulted in an estimated lack of greater than $30bn.
Earlier this week, Pakistani finance minister Ishaq Dar in a information convention expressed hope that Saudi Arabia will park its deposits within the central financial institution to supply some reduction to the economic system.
Islamabad wanted Saudi cash to shore international reserves and guarantee a security valve from default. Riyadh deposited $3bn in November 2021, beneath the tenure of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Final month, the dominion prolonged the phrases of the fund.
Since taking workplace final April, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has travelled to a number of Gulf nations to hunt financial support and funding. In accordance with official knowledge between April to November final yr, Saudi Arabia has given greater than $900m in support and $500m for importing oil. Qatar promised to take a position $3bn throughout Sharif’s journey to Doha in August.
Islamabad-based analyst Mohammed Faisal believed that Common Munir’s go to have to be seen from the lens of the economic system because it comes at a time of “significantly susceptible monetary state of affairs”.
“Pakistani management is wanting in direction of Saudi royals to shore up the depleting international reserves to avert default. For Islamabad, a key final result of the journey could be a Saudi announcement of economic help,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Pakistan managed to safe a mortgage from the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) value $1.17bn in August. However the subsequent tranche of the $1.18bn mortgage has been delayed. Islamabad remains to be negotiating with IMF for the following tranche.
In September, the Pakistan finance minister resigned whereas the federal government appears unwilling to just accept IMF circumstances, together with growing levies on gasoline.
Pakistan has been teetering getting ready to default, which, in easy phrases, means the nation can’t pay again what it’s owed and the treasury doesn’t have ample cash to satisfy its debt obligations. Specialists have feared Pakistan is headed to a Sri Lanka-like default state of affairs and that it may be solely prevented by deft dealing with of the economic system.
From the Saudi perspective, Faisal mentioned, the Gulf nation wished to keep up the connection with Pakistan as a result of the nation was an essential factor of Saudi regional technique.
“Saudi Arabia is conscious that Pakistan, a big Muslim-majority nation endorses Saudi declare to be the guardian of two of Islam’s holiest websites in Mecca and Medina,” Faisal advised Al Jazeera.
With the connection between the 2 nations going again greater than 50 years, this isn’t the primary time a Pakistani chief, both civilian or army, has picked the dominion as their first vacation spot after taking cost.
Each the present Prime Minister Sharif and his predecessor Khan travelled to Saudi Arabia on their maiden visits in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
The final two former military chiefs, Common Qamar Javed Bajwa – Munir’s predecessor, and Common Raheel Sharif, went to Saudi Arabia for his or her first journey.
Sharif, after his retirement in November 2016, subsequently grew to become the commander-in-chief of the Saudi-led Islamic Navy Counter Terrorism Coalition, a 41-nation alliance of Muslim nations situated in Riyadh.
Pakistan’s former envoy to Saudi Arabia Shahid M Amin mentioned that the connection between the 2 nations is historic in nature and, whereas Pakistan typically wants financial help, it additionally has supplied safety help to Saudi Arabia.
“The 2 nations have engaged in varied sectors equivalent to economic system, labour, commerce, safety and the truth that the present military chief went to Saudi Arabia, it’s merely a continuation of a sample.”
Amin advised Al Jazeera that Pakistani manpower was the important thing driver for Saudi improvement for greater than 5 many years. Pakistan, too, Amin mentioned, has made commitments to guard the dominion in case of any safety issues.
A retired senior army officer, Omar Mahmood Hayat, concurred with Amin’s views and mentioned that the connection is time-tested.
“One in every of our oldest and largest bilateral army workouts has been with Saudi Arabia. Now we have a really sturdy coaching group deployed in Saudi for many years,” he mentioned.
Common Munir himself has served time in Saudi Arabia as a part of the Pakistani military’s shut defence cooperation with the dominion.
Hayat additional added that with Kingdom itself a really sturdy member of assorted worldwide boards, it helps echo Pakistan’s viewpoint, as properly.
“It makes loads of sense that this needs to be the primary go to as has all the time been,” he mentioned.