Continuing an old tradition going back to the 1970s, Prime Minister Imran Khan, went to Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip. During his two-day trip Khan called on King Salman, Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman and also attended a state banquet.
With Pakistan’s economy in the doldrums, the country once again is turning to its two faithful allies – Saudi Arabia and China – seeking aid in order to avoid having to go to the IMF for the 13th time.
Soon after Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests when Pakistan faced crippling sanctions, Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan oil on deferred payments but there was a tacit understanding that Pakistan would be there for the Saudis when required.
In earlier decades, Saudi Arabia has deposited money in Pakistan’s exchequers to help the government tide over shortage of foreign exchange reserves. The Saudis did this in 2014 when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took over power. But at that time Pakistan had promised to send its troops whenever Riyadh requested. However, when the time came, we backed off and did not send our troops. The Saudi displeasure has been evident, clearly visible in their deepening ties with India.
If the current government would like Saudi Arabia to either offer deferred oil payments or deposit money in our exchequers, then what are we willing to do in exchange? Are we willing to send troops to Yemen?
And even if we say we will send troops, why would Saudi Arabia trust us this time round and give us money before Pakistani troops show up? We should understand their frustration too. Why promise what we cannot deliver?