RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa will visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss regional security issues and Kashmir dispute with the Saudi leadership, as diplomatic strains occur between Islamabad and Riyadh over the Kashmir issue.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General (DG) Major General Babar Iftikhar confirmed the visit while talking to a foreign news agency on Thursday.
“Yes, he [Gen Bajwa] is travelling,” the Pakistan Army spokesman told the foreign media outlet. He added that the visit is pre-planned and “primarily military affairs oriented”.
During the visit, General Bajwa will have meetings with top Saudi leadership.
The two countries are traditionally close and Saudi Arabia in 2018 gave Pakistan a $3 billion loan and $3.2 billion oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis. But Riyadh is irked by criticism from Islamabad that Saudi Arabia has been lukewarm on the Kashmir territorial dispute, motivating COAS Bajwa’s fence-building visit on Sunday.
Pakistan has long pressed the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to convene a high-level meeting to highlight alleged Indian violations in the part it controls. But the OIC has only held low-level meetings so far.
“If you cannot convene it, then I will 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,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told local media last week. Qureshi’s remarks angered Riyadh.
Last year, Islamabad had pulled out of a Muslim nations’ forum in Malaysia at the last minute on insistence by Riyadh, which saw the gathering as an attempt to challenge its leadership of the OIC.
Saudia Arabia had already made Pakistan pay back $1 billion two weeks ago, forcing it to borrow from another close ally, China, and Riyadh is yet to respond to Pakistan’s request to extend the oil credit facility.
The first year of the oil credit facility completed on July 9, 2020 and Pakistan’s request for an extension in the arrangement is under consideration with the Saudi side. Saudi Arabia is also asking for another $1 billion back.
Last Monday, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Admiral Nawaf Saeed Al-Malkiy called on the COAS. Matters of mutual interest, regional security situation and bilateral defence relations between the two brotherly countries were discussed during the meeting.