Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s new military chief has held talks with high 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.
Normal Syed Asim Munir, who took cost in November, has adopted within the footsteps of his predecessors in visiting Saudi Arabia – an in depth defence and financial ally – on his maiden abroad journey. He may even go to the United Arab Emirates through the almost one-week journey.
“The COAS shall be assembly the senior management of each brotherly international locations to debate issues of mutual curiosity, military-to-military cooperation and bilateral relations specializing in security-related topics,” the Inter-Providers Public Relations (ISPR), the army’s media wing, stated in a press release on Wednesday.
Normal Munir mentioned army cooperation with Saudi defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz within the capital Riyadh on Thursday, in accordance with the Saudi Press Company.
“We emphasised the strategic partnership between our brotherly international locations, reviewed the bilateral army and protection relations, and mentioned methods of strengthening our cooperation,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.
‘Susceptible monetary scenario’
The present go to by Normal 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 offer some reduction to the financial 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 international locations to hunt financial support and funding. Based on 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 Normal Munir’s go to should be seen from the lens of the financial system because it comes at a time of “notably susceptible monetary scenario”.
“Pakistani management is trying in direction of Saudi royals to shore up the depleting international reserves to avert default. For Islamabad, a key consequence of the journey could be a Saudi announcement of monetary help,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Pakistan managed to safe a mortgage from the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) price $1.17bn in August. However the subsequent tranche of the $1.18bn mortgage has been delayed. Islamabad continues 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 not pay again what it’s owed and the treasury doesn’t have ample cash to fulfill its debt obligations. Consultants have feared Pakistan is headed to a Sri Lanka-like default scenario and that it may be solely prevented by deft dealing with of the financial system.
From the Saudi perspective, Faisal stated, the Gulf nation wished to keep up the connection with Pakistan as a result of the nation was an vital aspect 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, Normal Qamar Javed Bajwa – Munir’s predecessor, and Normal Raheel Sharif, went to Saudi Arabia for his or her first journey.
Sharif, after his retirement in November 2016, subsequently turned the commander-in-chief of the Saudi-led Islamic Army Counter Terrorism Coalition, a 41-nation alliance of Muslim international locations positioned in Riyadh.
Pakistan’s former envoy to Saudi Arabia Shahid M Amin stated that the connection between the 2 nations is historic in nature and, whereas Pakistan usually wants financial assist, it additionally has supplied safety help to Saudi Arabia.
“The 2 international locations have engaged in numerous sectors resembling financial 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 growth for greater than 5 many years. Pakistan, too, Amin stated, has made commitments to guard the dominion in case of any safety considerations.
A retired senior army officer, Omar Mahmood Hayat, concurred with Amin’s views and stated that the connection is time-tested.
“One among our oldest and largest bilateral army workouts has been with Saudi Arabia. Now we have a really sturdy coaching workforce deployed in Saudi for many years,” he stated.
Normal 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 standpoint, as properly.
“It makes loads of sense that this needs to be the primary go to as has all the time been,” he stated.