By MOHAMED H. ZAKARIA, published in Arab News – July 20th, 2011

Saudi-Pakistan relations

THE Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, and Pakistan, the second largest Muslim state after Indonesia, the world’s two leading Islamic countries, enjoy excellent relations.

Saudi Arabia has always served as the solid foundation for eternal, unflinching and pure bondage of brotherhood and Pakistan is proud of its strong ties with the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has been a second home for Pakistanis and they feel blessed to contribute to the progress and prosperity of the Kingdom. Sentiments of brotherhood are rooted in culture, shared values and common faith. Pakistan holds Saudi Arabia in high esteem. Pakistani nation has deep respect for the people of Saudi Arabia. This relation and respect is centuries old and is beyond materialistic considerations. Every Pakistani wants to see the Kingdom strong and stable. They see the strength and stability of the Kingdom as their own strength and stability.  Close geographical proximity, historic trade ties, religious bond and the economic assistance have created a strong bondage of trust between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia has always supported Pakistan on international forums. On the Kashmir issue, Saudi Arabia has been more supportive of Pakistan than any other country in the world. The Saudi media and the public in general have also been supporting Pakistan on this issue. Similar support has been extended in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meetings as well.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, being the founding members of the OIC, attach great importance to the cause of the Ummah. Both the countries have traditionally supported all Islamic causes.

Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia strongly advocate dialogue among cultures, civilizations and faiths, so as to remove misgivings among the followers of different faiths. Incitement to racial and religious hatred has been identified as a threat to international peace and security. President Asif Ali Zardari said, “It is our firm belief that tolerance for cultural, racial, religious and linguistic diversities is essential for international understanding and friendship. Both the countries will continue to support and participate in all initiatives designed to promote inter-faith and inter-cultural harmony.”  Saudi Arabia has been among the first countries to acknowledge Pakistan as a newly developed country and extended a helping hand to strengthen the newly developed state.

Saudi Arabia has helped Pakistan in many fields since its inception in 1947; Saudi Arabia has provided assistance in form of fuel donation, fuel credit. The most famous example is the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.

The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim Al-Ghadeer speaking on the occasion of the Kingdom’s National Day once said, “Relations between the Kingdom and Pakistan, which began during the reign of the country’s founder King Abdul Aziz and Pakistan’s first leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah have reached their peak in the reign of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.”

These relations, he continued, stem from the bonds of religion, common customs and unified culture. “The two countries enjoy exceptional relations and share identical positions on several important Arab, Islamic and international issues,” the ambassador said, emphasizing the Kingdom’s keenness to enhance the national unity of Pakistan.

Al-Ghadeer said: The Kingdom stands first in the world in terms of the aid it has donated to Pakistan. Although the United Nations has fixed the percentage of donations to developing countries at no less than 0.07percent of a country’s income, Saudi Arabia donated SR245 billion between 1973 and 1993, which equals 5.5 percent of its average annual production during that period, he said. King Abdullah has said that no incident can affect the relations of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and in every difficult situation the Kingdom will stand with Pakistan.

King Abdullah had said in a meeting with one of the leaders of a political party of Pakistan, “Masses of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are like brothers and with the passage of time; relations of both countries will get more stability.” Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal in a meeting held in May with Federal Minister for Interior A. Rehman Malik, said that Saudi Arabia values its durable relations with Pakistan.

Successive Saudi leadership has visited Pakistan from time to time. King Saud visited Pakistan in 1954, King Faisal in 1966 and 1974 and King Khalid in 1976. Similarly, King Fahd, as crown prince, visited Pakistan in 1980 and King Abdullah went to Pakistan as crown prince in 1984, 1997, 1998 and 2003.

During his first tour to Asia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah included Pakistan as his final destination. During the visit five agreements/MoU encompassing political, economic, educational and scientific –cum-technical cooperation were inked by Pakistan and Saudi officials in the presence of heads of state of two countries. The two sides also issued a joint statement outlining points of convergence in their political views besides pinpointing activities they want to jointly undertake in future.

Saudi Arabia remains a major destination for immigration amongst Pakistanis, the number of whom living in Saudi Arabia stands between 900,000 and 1 million. Saudi Arabia is the largest source of petroleum for Pakistan.

It also supplies extensive financial aid to Pakistan and remittance from Pakistani migrants to Saudi Arabia is also a major source of foreign currency.

In recent years, both countries have exchanged high-level delegations and developed plans to expand bilateral cooperation in trade, education, real estate, tourism, information technology, communications and agriculture.

— Mohamed H. Zakaria is the CEO of Saudi Steel and senior vice president of Ahmed Salem Bugshan Group.