Pakistan–Saudi Arabia relations

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Pakistani–Saudi Arabian relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia

The bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Arabic: العلاقات السعودية الباكستانية‎, Urdu: پاک سعودی عرب تعلقات‎) are historically close and extremely friendly, frequently described by analysts as constituting a special relationship.[1][2][3] Despite Pakistan's close relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia's even closer relationship with India, Pakistan has been called "Saudi Arabia's closest Muslim ally."[4]

Brief history[edit]

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have sought to develop extensive commercial, cultural, religious, political, and strategic relations since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947. Pakistan affirms its relationship with Saudi Arabia as their most "important and bilateral partnership" in the current foreign policy of Pakistan, working and seeking to develop closer bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian peninsula and host to the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina and the destination of Muslim pilgrims from across the world.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, Pakistanis hold the most favorable perception of Saudi Arabians in the world, with 9 of respondents viewing Saudi Arabia favorably.[5] With one of the largest armies in the world and as the only declared nuclear power among the Muslim states, Pakistan has maintained a unique position to assist Saudi Arabia with its defense needs. The BBC claimed in 2013 that Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistan's nuclear weapons projects. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia publicly denied the report.[6] The kingdom has often tried to woo Pakistan by giving it gifts and loans, often these are gifts with symbolic religious value, for example in 2014 it gifted Pakistan 200 tonnes of dates.[7] Pakistani commandos ended the Grand Mosque Seizure in 1979, and restored Saudi administration over the Masjid al-Haram.[8]

Pakistan's previous prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, enjoys exceptionally close ties with senior members of the Saudi royal family. When Sharif was toppled in the bloodless 1999 Pakistani coup d'état, Saudi Arabia intervened; and military chief Pervez Musharraf allowed Sharif and his family to travel into exile in Saudi Arabia. On 2 April 2014, Pakistan Today reported that Pakistan will sell JF-17 Thunder jets to Saudi Arabia, after the kingdom had given a grant of $1.5 billion to Pakistan in early 2014.[9][10] On January 8, 2014, Al-Monitor reported that the partnership with Pakistan satisfies the Saudi historic quest for a close non-Arab ally to maintain its hegemony in the Arab world and deal with its own internal security challenges. Saudi Arabia is often seen offering its economic resources and the promise of investment in return for military and security cooperation from Pakistan.[11]

Development of bilateral relations between the two countries[edit]

Pakistan International School Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are leading members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest supporters of Pakistan during Pakistan's wars with India, especially opposing the creation of Bangladesh from Pakistan's eastern wing in 1971.

Saudi Arabia supports Pakistan's stance on the Kashmir conflict, and endorses the Pakistani position in the Indo-Pakistani peace process[citation needed]. With Pakistan, it provided extensive financial and political support to the Taliban and the Afghan mujahideen fighting in the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s.[12][13][14] During the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War, Pakistan sent troops to protect the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia, but strains developed when some Pakistani politicians and Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the then-chief of staff of the Pakistani army openly expressed support for Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and its invasion of Kuwait.[15] Along with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were the only states to recognise Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In May 1998, Saudi Arabia was the only country that was taken in complete confidence by Prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Pakistan's decision on performing atomic test in weapon-testing laboratories-III (WTL-III) in the region of the Chagai Hills. After he ordered the atomic tests (see codenames: Chagai-I and Chagai-II), Saudi Arabia, along with United Arab Emirates, were the only countries to backed Pakistan and congratulated the country for making the "bold decision". Furthermore, Saudi Arabia promised to supply 50,000 barrels per day of free oil to help Pakistan cope with likely economic sanctions in the aftermath[citation needed]

Military cooperation[edit]

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms and training for the Saudi armed forces.[13] Fighter Pilots of the Pakistan Air Force flew aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force to repel an incursion from South Yemen in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, approximately ~15,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in the kingdom.[13] Saudi Arabia has negotiated the purchase of Pakistani ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.[13] It is also speculated that Saudi Arabia secretly funded Pakistan's atomic bomb programme and seeks to purchase atomic weapons from Pakistan to enable it to counteract possible threats from arsenals of the weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iran, Iraq and Israel.[16][17][18] Both nations have received high-level delegations of scientists, government and Saudi military experts of seeking to study the development of a Saudi nuclear programme.[13][16][19] Pakistan also formed a key intermediary in the Al-Yamamah arms deal with the United Kingdom.

According to Bruno Tertrais, a researcher for the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium, during informal discussions held in 2005 a former Pakistan National Command Authority officials have said that deploying Pakistan nuclear warheads in Saudi Arabia would be "worse than the Cuban missile crisis." Tertrais concludes that there is no hard evidence in the public domain of any nuclear cooperation between the two countries.[20]

Pakistan rejected a request from Saudi Arabia to contribute troops to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.[21]

Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia[edit]

Between 1982 and 1987, Pakistan station approximately 20,000 servicemen in Saudi Arabia to defend Islamic holy sites.[22] There are reportedly approximately 70,000 Pakistani servicmen serving in the Military of Saudi Arabia.[23]

In February 2018, Pakistan announced that it would be sending troops to Saudi Arabia on a “training and advise mission”.[21]

Cultural and commercial ties[edit]

Faisal Mosque in Pakistan is named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who supported and financed the construction of the mosque.[24]

Saudi Arabia has also provided extensive religious and educational aid to Pakistan, being a major contributor to the construction of mosques and madrassas (religious schools) across Pakistan, including the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Since 1980, the number of religious schools increased from 800 to 27000 in 1997 and all are funded by Saudi Arabia.[citation needed] The schools serve as nurseries for teenagers and younger children (giving religious and moral education) from Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Yemen etc.

Since 1947, the political parties have been receiving funding for their political activities in the country. The major Pakistani city of Lyallpur was also renamed Faisalabad in honour of King Faisal in 1977. 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 (see Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia).[25][26] Saudi Arabia was a major supporter of the "Islamisation" programme of the military ruler Gen. Zia-ul-Haq in the 1970s. In 2006, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian decoration of Pakistan.[27]

Saudi Arabia is the largest source of petroleum for Pakistan.[28] It also supplies extensive financial aid to Pakistan and remittance from Pakistani migrants in Saudi Arabia is also a major source of foreign currency for Pakistan.[29] 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.[26][30] Saudi Arabia is aiding the development of trade relations with Pakistan through the Gulf Cooperation Council, with which Pakistan is negotiating a free trade agreement; the volume of trade between Pakistan and GCC member states in 2006 stood at US$11 billion.[29][30] Financial co-operation includes $3 billion in aid and loans, of which $1.5 billion was deposited in Pakistan's central bank.[31] In 2018 Saudi Arabia agreed to establish an oil refinery at Gwadar, with a proposed capacity of 500,000 barrels per day.[32][33] In 2019, Saudi Arabia paid $20 billion to finance developmental projects in Pakistan.[34]

2019 Saudi Visit to Pakistan[edit]

The Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman, visited Pakistan in February, 2019. Pakistan was the first stop of the Crown Prince’s journey to Pakistan, India and China. The most important part of the visit was to sign an agreement to establish a $10 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex in Gwadar.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cafiero, Giorgio; Wagner, Daniel (23 November 2015). "Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's Evolving Alliance". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  2. ^ Guzansky, Yoel (16 February 2016). "Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: How Special are the "Special Relations"?". The Institute for National Security Studies. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  3. ^ Teller, Neville (2016). The Chaos in the Middle East: 2014–2016. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-78589-282-0.
  4. ^ Lacey, Robert (2009). Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia. Viking. p. 294. Saudi Arabia's closest Muslim ally, Pakistan
  5. ^ Saudi Arabia’s Image Falters among Middle East Neighbors Pew Research Global Attitudes Project
  6. ^ Saudi-Pakistan Military Ties Getting Stronger
  7. ^ Grand gesture: Saudi Arabia gifts 200 tons of dates to Pakistan
  8. ^ see also Prouteau, Christian (1998). Mémoires d'Etat. Michel Lafon. p. 265 through 277 and 280.
  9. ^ Pakistan to return Saudi favor with arms, combat aircrafts [sic]
  10. ^ Reavealed [sic]: It was Saudi Arabia that loaned Pakistan $1.5 billion to shore up reserves
  11. ^ Saudi strategy includes alliance with Pakistan
  12. ^ Dr. Veena Kukreja, Mahendra Prasad Singh (2005). Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues. Sage Publications. p. 248. ISBN 0-7619-3417-0.
  13. ^ a b c d e Saudi Arabia: Nervously Watching Pakistan Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Prithvi Ram Mudiam (1994). India and the Middle East. British Academic Press. pp. 88–94. ISBN 1-85043-703-3.
  15. ^ Pakistan – Middle East
  16. ^ a b Al J. Venter (2007). Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons. Globe Pequot. pp. 150–53. ISBN 1-59921-205-6.
  17. ^ Saudi Arabia's nuclear gambit
  18. ^ Saudi Arabia Special Wars
  19. ^ Saudis consider nuclear bomb, The Guardian, 18 September 2003.
  20. ^ Tertrais, Bruno (July 2012). "Pakistan's Nuclear and WMD Programmes: Status, Evolution and Risks" (PDF). Non-Proliferation Papers. EU Non-Proliferation Consortium (19): 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  21. ^ a b Hassan, Syed Raza; Johnson, Kay (February 16, 2018). Macfie, Nick, ed. "Pakistan to send troops to Saudi Arabia to train and advise". Reuters.
  22. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (12 April 2016). Pakistan at the Crossroads: Domestic Dynamics and External Pressures. Columbia University Press. pp. 307–. ISBN 978-0-231-54025-4.
  23. ^ Freeman, Colin; Khan, Taimur (March 13, 2017). "Pakistan in talks with Saudi Arabia to send combat troops to protect the kingdom". The National. Although the kingdom, like other Persian Gulf countries, does not make the numbers public, experts say there are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services at any one time.
  24. ^ Mass, Leslie Noyes (2011). Back to Pakistan: A Fifty-Year Journey. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 157. ISBN 978-1-4422-1319-7.
  25. ^ Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries
  26. ^ a b Riyadh look to Asian trade
  27. ^ King Abdullah ends Asian tour with state visit to Pakistan Archived 2008-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Saudi king holds Pakistan talks
  29. ^ a b India-Pakistan trade with Gulf hits $36 bn
  30. ^ a b Pakistan to welcome greater investment from Saudi Arabia Archived 2008-06-13 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^
  32. ^ Kiani, Khaleeq (October 4, 2018). "Talks with Saudi Arabia on $8bn Gwadar refinery in final stages". Dawn.
  33. ^ Usman Khan and Noor ul Amin Danish (February 17, 2019). "Pakistan, Saudi Arabia sign $20b agreements as crown prince arrives in Islamabad". Samaa TV. Retrieved 22 February 2019.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  34. ^ "Saudi Arabia hailed for $20bn investment in Pakistan". Arab News. 2019-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  35. ^ "Grand welcome for Saudi Crown Prince in Pakistan". Saudigazette. 2019-02-17. Retrieved 2019-02-21.