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Islamabad becoming the hub of international diplomacy

Saudi and Iranian leadership repose confidence in Pakistan

By Salim Bokhari

April 22, 2024 06:11 PM


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Realistically speaking the otherwise two arch rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran have decided to repose confidence in Pakistani leadership to sort out bilateral, regional and international issues to have a common approach to the challenges confronting the Ummah.

The recent visits of the high-powered Saudi Arabian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan along with three other ministers were a step in this direction. The visit was a follow-up to the recent visits of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen Syed Asim Munir to Saudi Arabia.

The visit of the Saudi delegation is also a forerunner to the upcoming tour of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman which is being keenly awaited. The Royal guest is expected to formally announce massive investment in various projects of Pakistan to bail out Pakistan from the economic dip. 

Immediately after the Saudi delegation’s visit, the arrival of Iranian President Dr Ibrahim Raeesi on a three-day official visit at the head of a high-powered delegation is very significant.

Diplomatic sources monitoring these visits closely are of the view that on the face of it, these visits are aimed at improving the bilateral relations with the Saudi focus on investment in Pakistan and the Iranian objective is to resume work on the suspended Pak-Iran gas pipeline. The Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project was signed in June 2009.

Although Tehran has claimed to have completed construction of 1,100 kilometres of the pipeline on its side of the border, construction has not started on the Pakistani side because Islamabad fears it would invite US sanctions for importing Iranian gas.

Iran’s energy sector is under sanctions from Washington for its nuclear programme. Iranian officials have repeatedly told to sue Pakistan in international arbitration and impose a penalty of around $18 billion for breach of contract. On the other hand, the US State Department has recently renewed its warning to Islamabad, advising against proceeding with the project to avoid sanctions.

Diplomats have confided to this correspondent Islamabad has decided to ignore the American threat and will start construction of its part of the pipeline shortly commissioning of which would largely solve the energy crisis that Pakistan has been facing for a long time. China is understood to have given the green signal for the resumption of work on the pipeline project anticipating that a lot of energy will be required for the proposed construction of economic zones on both sides of CPEC Highway.

However, these diplomats are of the view that the fast-changing situation in the Middle East in the wake of the war imposed on Gaza by the Zionist entity had been the focus during the Saudi delegation’s visit and will be the focus during President Raeesi’s visit as well.

Israel killed over 35,000 innocent civilians, mostly women and children, besides injuring over 80,000 citizens ignoring ceasefire appeals by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the International Court of Justice that urged Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the genocide of the Palestinian people.

On March 10, 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to renew diplomatic relations after a seven-year rupture and open up a new era of cooperation in their rivalry in the Persian Gulf. They have exchanged ambassadors, reopened their embassies, and held numerous high-level meetings as a result of President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Riyadh in November last year, the first Iranian of his rank to visit Riyadh in eleven years.

Iran and Pakistan both have been victims of international terrorism, particularly on both sides of the Balochistan border resulting in air strikes in the region as part of operations against terrorists hideouts.

The bureaucracy in Pakistan has to work overtime to handle the pressure of new agreements signed with Saudi Arabia and Iran. There is hardly any doubt if these projects come through, Pakistan will be in a better position to get rid of IMF clutches.


Salim Bokhari


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