Strategic Shift in PPP Government and Saudi Arabia Relations Emerges!
By Aijaz Ahmed
Known for suicidal missions, attacks and bombings, Pakistan is believed to have reached a collective sucidal defense understanding with Saudi Arabia ostensibly ‘to secure and guard the holy land from political turmoil that may hit the country with extended influence from neighbouring Bahrain’, sources in the power corridoors have whsipered to Indus Herald in Islamabad.
The specifics of the ‘security arrangement’ are a tightly guarded secret but it is believed that the deal for the security of the oil rich holy kingdom includes sending up to 20,000 troops and recruitment of retired personnel for Saudi defense forces if Riyadh were to face an internal uprising, sources confided. Additionally, the package includes purchase of military hardware from Pakistan and intensified efforts to build Saudi nuclear deterrence for which Saudi Arabia has an infrastructure at Al-Sulayyil, south of Riyadh, a secret underground city with dozens of underground silos for missiles.
|Hina Rabbani Khar|
Although Junior Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s two day visit to Riyadh was officially described as a trip for “strengthening the existing bonds of friendship and brotherhood”, the visit was in fact meant to convey political leadership’s endorsement of the upgradation of security ties between the two countries to unprecedented levels - an arrangement that has already been worked out at the military level.
Indeed, Saudis have always had excellent ties with Pakistan’s military top brass command at the GHQ; however, its relations with PPP leadership have never been good since the bad old days of General Zia, with whom they collaborated even after he hanged a leader like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, once darling of Saudi and other Arab Leadership.
Prior to the current spell of spasmodic proximity being espoused so eagerly by the Saudi monarchy, it always treated PPP leaders with great disdain – rather contempt. Not long ago Wikileaks had quoted King Abdullah as having mentioned party’s co-chairman and country’s president Asif Ali Zardari as a ‘rotten head’ and obstruction in the development of the country, says the Pak Foreign Policy Blog while commenting on recent developments between Pakistan’s political leadership in the office and Saudi Royal family over uprising in Bahrain.
Thus, the visit of Ms. Khar was very crucial because it came at a time when new alignments were being made in the view of the heightening cold war and the new great game in the Gulf region between Iran and Arab monarchies with the dividing line drawn in the sands of Bahrain.
Whisperings in Islamabad’s diplomatic circuit speak of unrealistic fears in Riyadh that PPP leadership may not back the deal they had clinched with Gen Kayani & Co, so they backed up their efforts by launching Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the onetime Saudi ambassador to Washington and now the secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council, as the additional pointman on Pakistan, who not only toured Pakistan, but was kind enough to write a follow up letter to Prime Minister Gilani “reiterating desire to further strengthen these relations in all areas of mutual interest.” Pakistan government very proudly flaunted the letter. Earlier, relations with Islamabad were mostly conducted through the intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz.
In addition to Iran, recent problems in Riyadh-Washington relations have compelled Saudis to go expedite renewed alignment with Pakistani civilian leadership, sources in power corridors and the diplomatic circles observed. As President Obama and his administration viewed Saudis with distrust as financiers of the insurgency in Afghanistan, Saudis, according to International Energy Agency, reduced oil production in mid-March at a crucial time despite an earlier promise with Washington to make up for the Libyan oil made unavailable because of NATO opperation against Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Pakistan, cognizant of the fallout at home in the shape of revived sectarian clashes, gambled to dive into the Iran-Arab cold war by siding with the Saudis because its military leadership found it to be in sync with the American strategic calculations for the region.
Washington’s security architecture for the Arab world is believed to be based on the continuation of existing monarchies in the oil rich region. And Pakistan’s strategic thinking is no different, commentes Pak Fpreign Policy Blog. To quote President Zardari: “Pakistan desires peace, security, and stability in Bahrain. Pakistan … would not like its (region`s) stability to be upset in any way. Pakistan believes that it would be dangerous for regional peace and stability if the system was destabilized one way or the other”.
So here lies the convergence of interests between Islamabad and Washington. Where Saudis are out to get military/security benefits from Pakistan, Islamabad is looking to meet its insatiable desire for easy money and cheap fuel to keep itself going and footing the bill for leaders’ shenanigans. It Would also be worth mentioning that the Indus Herald in one of its earlier stories on this subject had disclosed seome developments on revival of Pak-Saudi Defence Cooperation Agreement. The current deal shall be taken as informal revival of the agreement and part of the development, and the agreement may formally be revived if a legal hitch comes in the way of implementation of the understanding, sources maintained
The deal may ring alarming bells in the Washington, and the reaction from White House and Pentagon would be of considerable. The United States has been uneasily watching Pak-Saudi partnership under the garb of reinvigoration of bilateral ties focussed on curbing the ‘rise of Iran backed political movement for democracy among the Shias of the Arab world through measures ranging from deployment of up to 20,000 Pakistani regular troops in Saudi Arabia and building of Riyadh’s nuclear deterrence capacity.
The issue was part of deliberations with Pakistan Army during the recently concluded visit of US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen to islamabad, sources revealed; however, they are tight lipped over the outcome of the deliberation on the issue between General Kiyani and Mr. Mullen.
US dilemma is that it wouldn’t like to see Saudi Arabia becoming another nuclear nightmare but at the same time it can’t do much other than turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s support to the Saudi royal family increasingly worried not only about Iran dominating the region, but also fretful about losing power, PFP comments. Remember King Abdullah is so upset about the prospects of threats to the monarchy that he shortened his recuperation rest after two surgeries against doctors’ advice and rushed back home to deal with the crisis.
THE NUCLEAR BOMB:
It may be recalled that it was reported in international press including the Washington Times in October 2003 that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had entered a secret agreement on "nuclear cooperation" providing Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons technology in return for access to cheap oil for Pakistan.
In March 2006, the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia had since 2003 received assistance from Pakistan to acquire nuclear missiles and warheads.
Saudi defector Muhammad Khilewi, once served as Saudi deputy chief of mission at the UN, had also few years back disclosed documents that Riyadh funded Pakistan’s nuclear program on the condition that if Saudi Arabia felt threatened at any time it can benefit from Pakistani arsenal.
And according to a testimony of Israeli intelligence chief before Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Riyadh has been asking Pakistan to provide nuclear war heads for its missiles.
Probably there wouldn’t be a more crucial time than now to ask Pakistan for the promised ‘pay back’.
|Saudi defense infrastructure|