Pakistan`s ‘cautious’ Diplomacy with Saudi Arabia

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The decades old ambidextrous bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is generally transactional in nature. The troika of defense, dependence and deference persistently shape the contours of this bilateral saga. Though, relations in transactional world are categorically shaped by narrow self-interests but Pakistan-Saudi ties also imbibe certain qualitative features such as spiritual cohesion and ideological bonding. In retrospect, both countries have strived their best to compensate during instances of diverging national interests and this exhibits the continuity of this special relationship. The changing political leaderships and fluctuating international political developments have tested the resilience of this bonhomie and this iron-clad nexus between Nuclear Power Muslim giant on one hand and petro-monarch goliath on other hand emerged even stronger after every external and internal shock.

Myriad regional developments illustrate that regional order is dramatically changing after Muhammad bin Salman`s ascent to throne such as rapprochement with Israel, burgeoning Indian footprint, faltering strategic relevance of Pakistan, youth-led indigenous mass protests and American strategic retrenchment. To navigate these turbulent waters of regional realpolitik, Pakistan must refurbish its Middle East grand strategy and Saudi centric diplomacy by robustly ‘marketing’ its potential, to build sustainable relationships, instead of expecting intermittent Arab largesse.

Retrospectively, history matters little in the bilateral relationship today. Our foreign policy statecraft must be cognizant that foreign policy is not an end itself, rather means to achieve national objectives, through diplomatic tactics and means available at state`s disposal. The success or failure of diplomatic maneuvering substantially depends upon means available which can cajole foreign actors to capitalize. These means could be economic prowess, military largesse, cultural artifacts or ideology. Pakistan can launch multi-pronged charm offensive in any region, including Muhammad bin Salman`s Saudi Arabia, if means to achieve our foreign policy agendas are diversified and effectively ‘marketed’ through diplomatic tactics. Going forward, Pakistan should by all means work towards improving and strengthening the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia. However, this should not come at the cost of sovereignty; this country must remain free to take decisions regarding foreign policy that are in its best interest. Moreover, Pakistan must work hard to stabilise its internal economic and political situation so that both friends and foes are unable to exploit its weaknesses.

 

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