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Highlights:

  • Saudi Arabia maintained neutrality over the controversial Kashmir issue, despite efforts of Islamabad to mend the relationship. 
  • Since the time the Modi Government came into power, India has maintained good ties with Saudi. 
  • The relation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia started when Riyadh did not heed the demand of Pak to call a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 
  • There are several geopolitical reasons vis-à-vis Pak that have influenced the Saudi stance over Kashmir.
  • The equation of China with Pakistan has complicated the situation, and Mohammad Bin Salman, as per Bahrami, is sending a warning to Pakistan. 

Much to India’s Delight and Pakistan’s dismay, Saudi Arabia maintained neutrality over the controversial Kashmir issue, even when Islamabad is taking all the efforts to mend its relation with the Gulf Country and wooing it to change its stance. 

Since 2014, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power, his Government has maintained good relations with Saudi. After PM Modi visited Riyadh in 2019, the gulf country has maintained neutrality over Kashmir and backed India to mitigate cross-border terrorism, maintained Abhinav Pandya, a strategic analyst, and CEO of Usanas Foundation. Before being neutral over the Kashmir issue, Saudi on various global diplomatic forums several times have supported Pakistan. 

Pandya stated, “Three events of 1979 had a direct impact on Kashmir (seizure of the grand mosque in Mecca, the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan).” Pandya added that Wahhabism across the continent was sponsored by the Saudis in 1979. Muslim majority Kashmir became a “natural choice for Wahhabi proselytization because of the deep penetration of Pak, which historically had close ties with the Saudis. The relation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia started when Riyadh did not heed the demand call of Pak to call a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister asked the Saudis to show “leadership” and threatened that if Saudi did not call a meeting of the foreign ministers of the OIC over Kashmir, Pakistan will be forced to go to Turkey, Iran, and Malaysia for support, said Madiha Afzal, in an analysis for the Brookings Institute.

In the meantime, Pakistan’s embassy in Riyadh was denied permission, and the consulate in Jeddah to organize Kashmir black day programs on October 27, 2020, by Saudi. On October 27, 1947, the Jammu and Kashmir ruler acceded to India, and every year the day is observed in Pakistan as ‘Kashmir Black Day’. 

In recent times the relation of India with Arabs has improved, particularly with Saudi as India is an emerging economy and a key global market. Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC said like most of the countries, Riyadh looks at India as a significant player, as a key market, and a country that it does not want to antagonize. Michael added, “Obviously, if you refrain from supporting the Kashmir cause publicly that certainly will help your cause with India.” 

There are several geopolitical reasons vis-à-vis Pak that have influenced the Saudi stance over Kashmir. Afzal stated that Saudis did not take kindly to Pak’s “overt pressure” the previous year and immediately recalled a USD 1 billion loan that in 2018 it had given to Pakistan as part of a USD 3 billion loan.  

Hamid Bahrami, an independent Middle East analyst based in Glasgow said Pak has disappointed Saudi regarding the Yemen war, and Pak took neutrality between Iran and Saudi, and crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) has been convinced that the current approach of Pakistan is not favoring him. 

“Moreover, Pakistan’s political establishment has a positive view of MBS’ political rival inside the Saudi royal family,” Bahrami said the Saudi’s close ties with the US and Pakistan’s close ties with US rival China also add to the dynamics of foreign policies in Kashmir. Bahrami mentioned, “The main threat is China, and unfortunately, Pakistan is paving Beijing’s way to access the Middle East through the port of Gwadar. This is a serious threat to the Saudi-US camp. I consider Iran-Pakistan-Turkey-China-Russia as an asymmetric camp with a different interest but the same rivals.”

Further, he added that the US and Saudis are moving closer to India than to Pak to control China and the emerging asymmetric camp. The equation of China with Pakistan has complicated the situation, and MBS, as per Bahrami, is sending a warning to Pakistan. 

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