PM’s Saudi Visit Shows How Friends See Pakistan’s Problems

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The recent visit of PM Shahbaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia has once again brought to the fore a fact that the world has long accepted but Pakistan’s leaders – especially the deep state – have been reluctant to do so: without political stability and security guarantees, economic investment will not flow in and none of this is possible unless Pakistan improves relations with India.

Every Pakistani Prime Minister chooses Saudi Arabia – or China – for their first foreign visit. What was interesting, however, was that the joint readout issued after the meeting of PM Sharif with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, spoke of not only “expediting” Saudi investment in Pakistan but Riyadh’s desire to see “peace and stability” in the subcontinent.

For some years now, Pakistan has hoped for, and been promised, Saudi investment. Some time back the Saudis pledged around $25 billion through the military-backed Special Investment Facilitation Council. While it was specified there are signs Saudi funds could end up in mining, specifically the Reko Diq project. However, like any foreign investor the Saudis too want political stability, security guarantees, and continuity of economic policies. Unless there is continuity and consonance on all these fronts, few will be willing to put their funds into Pakistani projects.

As an editorial in Dawn warned, however, “if foreign players invest in Pakistan, they will not be looking to dole out charity. They will come to make money, which is why profit repatriation must be smooth to ensure continued foreign investment. A few billion dollars will hardly turn around our economy.”

However, it is the reference to “the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India” that was picked up by many in the Pakistani media. As the editorial in Dawn noted, “Saudi mediation in our dispute with India, this should also be seen in the context of geo-economics.” Riyadh is eyeing a $100bn investment plan in India and wants peace in the neighbourhood.

The question remains: will the Saudis be able to convince the Pakistani deep state to talk peace with India.

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Author: Muhammad Butt