Why India Would Be ‘Secretly Applauding’ Pakistan-Saudi Reconciliation Efforts?

Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia could have direct implications for India.

Saudi Arabia has highlighted the importance of dialogue between India and to resolve all of their issues, including Kashmir.

Pakistan Foreign Office on Saturday night released a joint statement which read: “The two sides emphasized the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially Jammu and Kashmir issue, to ensure peace and stability in the region,” according to the joint statement. 

Pakistan had earlier drawn the ire of Saudi Arabia when it got impatient with the Kingdom’s unwillingness to take a firm stand on Kashmir through the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Last year, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi criticized the inaction and threatened to create an alternative grouping of Islamic nations.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” Qureshi had said during an interview with ARY News on August 5, 2020, one year after India scrapped Article 370 of its Constitution stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

This statement came after Turkey had publicly supported Pakistan’s stand following India’s move on Kashmir and the latter had agreed to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit which challenged the Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

But Pakistan later skipped the summit reportedly due to the pressure of Riyadh.

In response to Qureshi’s impatient comments, Riyadh retracted some of the financial aid it had been providing Pakistan. Islamabad was asked to repay the $2 billion worth of loans that earlier used to get extended. The kingdom had also cut off $3.2 billion worth of oil supply to Pakistan over deferred payment and did not renew the deal.

Reconciliation Efforts

General Bajwa was sent to Riyadh to resolve differences between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in August but he was not able to meet Mohammed bin Salman.

It was believed that a direct military engagement with the Saudi leadership would help in calming the situation down and thus General Qamar Bajwa instead of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was sent to Riyadh, this time. 

Saudi Arabia needs Pakistan to help check the influence of Iran after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Iran’s sway over the Taliban has increased at the expense of Saudi Arabia and it could use that as a projection of power to question Saudi domination of the Islamic world.

Pakistan also requires the continuation of Saudi oil and money to keep a hold of its fragile economy. China’s projects of the Belt and Road Initiative have created a one-sided dependency which Pakistan needs to balance out.

The Diplomatist new magazine pointed out that the biggest obstacle to this relationship is Pakistan’s unreasonable belief that Saudi Arabia should put ideology before its strategic interests.

Could This Affect India?

Saudi Arabia’s strategic interests lie in improving relations between Pakistan and India rather than widening the rift. This is also reflected in the recent efforts by the Saudi-ally UAE, as reported by The EurAsian Times, to act as a mediator between Pakistan and India.

India, as a rising economy, is a very big market for the Gulf countries. India imports about 18% of its crude oil requirement and 30% of its LPG requirement from Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Western demand is going to slacken with the US increasing domestic production through fracking.

Currently, Pakistan is the loudest voice highlighting the Kashmir issue internationally. Good relations with India would probably mean it would have to tone down the rhetoric a bit. As Pakistan’s harsh stance goes down, so may its proclivity to question Saudi leadership in international bodies.

It is good for India if Pakistan goes to Saudi Arabia rather than China for its financial woes. India’s worst nightmare will be its two biggest rivals and neighbors teaming up against it.