Strained ties with Saudi Arabia, UAE-Israel peace deal put Pakistan in tough spot

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Islamabad [Pakistan], August 21 (ANI): Even as Pakistan was reeling under the impact of strained ties with Saudi Arabia, the UAE-Israel peace deal has thrown up more foreign policy challenges.
Recently in an interview, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had rejected any possibility of the country establishing relations with Israel, according to a report in The Express Tribune.
"Our stance is very clear from day one and Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had said Pakistan can never accept state of Israel until the people of Palestine get rights and state," he said in an interview with a new channel, as per the report.
Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic relations.
As Prime Minister Imran Khan completes two years in power, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi's recent adverse remarks about its traditional ally Saudi Arabia along with the UAE-Israel deal, which could have wider ramifications for Pakistan, have put the country in a tough spot.
On the first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370 by India, Qureshi criticised Saudi Arabia in a TV interview for not obliging Pakistan over the issue of 'organising' a meeting of the Council of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Foreign Ministers (CFM) on Kashmir in early February 2020.
Qureshi's outburst led to Riyadh's anger, which forced Pakistan to pay back USD 1bn prematurely and is demanding another USD 1bn of the loan.
General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, Pakistani Army Chief rushed to Saudi Arabia to contain the fallout from Qureshi's remarks. However, as per Pakistani media reports, he failed to secure a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Qureshi is currently on a visit to China. The visit assumes significance in the wake of recent downturn in ties with Saudi Arabia.
Even though the Pakistani Prime Minister has sought to improve ties with Turkey, whose President's grand-ambitions to emerge as leader of Muslim world is well known, risking ties with Saudi Arabia could prove to be costly for Islamabad.
As per media reports, Qureshi's comments have not gone down well with the all powerful military. And the military, which is known to formulate Pakistan's Foreign policy, has shown desperation to improve ties with Saudi Arabia.
The signing of UAE-Israel peace deal has further complicated the situation for Pakistan. Pakistan has traditionally relied on Saudi Arabia and UAE for economic bailout.
While Iran has criticised the deal, Pakistan ambiguously said it is a development with far reaching implications.
Riyadh has helped Islamabad many times including helping in paying for Pakistan's first batch of F-16 fighter aircraft in the 1980s and providing USD 6 billion loans that helped Pakistan tide over its balance of payments crisis just two years ago.
Saudi Arabia had come to Pakistan's rescue in 2018 when it had agreed to provide $3.2 billion worth of oil on deferred payments per annum as part of its $ 6.2 billion package to help Pakistan tide over its balance of payment crisis.
The balance $3 billion was delivered as a cash-loan. Saudis had activated the deferred payment facility for three years from 1 July 2019, and the agreement signed in May had come up for renewal this year.
However, the Saudis, visibly upset at Pakistan's behaviour, have possibly discontinued the arrangement.
Among other things, Pakistan's tilt towards Turkey, Malaysia, and Iran, as also its growing economic and strategic dependence on China might have annoyed the Saudis. (ANI)

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