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HomeGeopolitical CompassSouth & Southeast AsiaFrom Blind Reliance to Contractual Convenience: The Recent Pakistani-Saudi Rift

From Blind Reliance to Contractual Convenience: The Recent Pakistani-Saudi Rift

Author: Arhama Siddiqa

Affiliation: Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad

Organization/Publisher: Aljazeera Centre for Studies

Date/Place: September 15, 2020/Doha, Qatar

Type of Literature: Report

Number of Pages: 9


Keywords: Contractual Convenience, Economic partnerships, Disagreements. 


Though Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have cultivated close relations in the past decades, several events have poisoned the waters. Saudi Arabia antagonizes countries that don’t follow its strategic patterns; recently, it pressured Pakistan to pull out of the Kuala Lumpur summit (because it was co-hosted by Turkey and Iran), treating the summit as an affront to the OIC. The comments by Pakistan’s foreign minister regarding the OIC’s inaction towards Kashmir caused the Saudis to demand a return of part of their 2018 loans to Pakistan.  In addition, Saudi Arabia has provoked Pakistan’s ire with its recent closeness to India. Both countries are drifting apart from Pakistan, looking into new partnerships, while the Saudis are more occupied with their regional goals and rivals. Yet both countries can’t break away, as Pakistan depends on remittances for its foreign reserves (30% of its total remittances come from workers in the Kingdom), 25% of its oil comes from Saudi Arabia, and there is a history of financial aid given by the Saudis in times of need. On the other hand, Pakistan is too important in Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Iran as it offers nuclear expertise and deterrence, security advisors as part of a 1982 defense pact, and any severe break in relations would cost Saudi Arabia much of its ideological reach outside of the Arab world. Additionally, Pakistani cost-effective labor in the Kingdom could help it in moving away from oil dependency. A breakaway is not possible, but a decrease in ties is occurring. However, Saudi threats after every disagreement will increase the gap and will push Pakistan to other actors who are more cordial partners. 

By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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