Alwaght- Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman on Monday visited Pakistan and met with Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, Saudi paper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
According to the paper, bolstering military ties, military training, and regional developments were the main points of discussion of the Saudi official in Islamabad.
Seeking mediation to walk out of Yemen quagmire
As is clear, Saudi Arabia is sinking deeper and deeper in Yemen war swamp. The Arab kingdom is seeing itself in the front of clear loss and failure to get what it started the war for, amid increasing international criticism against a war that created a tragic humanitarian crisis as it killed many civilians and pushed the already-impoverished country on the brink of famine and widespread diseases as the blockade from the air, sea, and ground continues for the fifth year.
On the opposite side of the war, Ansarullah resistant movement and its allies have honed their defense capabilities and several times targeted the depth of the Saudi territories in a show of military power. Targeting strategic Saudi industries, the missile and drone attacks disclosed the incompetence of the US-provided air defense systems. That is beside the hard blow they dealt to the Saudi image in the region.
July last year, the UAE, a major ally to Saudi Arabia in the anti-Yemeni coalition, said it plans to extricate itself from the Yemen war. It removed a considerable part of its forces from the Yemeni territories but at the same time equipped allied militias in southern Yemen. Since then, the Saudis felt themselves alone in managing the war. Riyadh became genuinely alone because in practice other than Abu Dhabi no members of the Arab alliance intervened directly in Yemen. This gives the Saudi rulers a sense of being caught helplessly in Yemen morass.
The high war costs, while the kingdom is facing major budget deficit, make the Yemen war of attrition useless for the Saudis and bearing substantial damages to Saudi economy. Add to this the division among the Arab allies in Yemen war. Recently, UAE-backed militants clashed with Saudi-supported loyalists of resigned President Abdrabuhh Mansour Hadi in southern port city of Aden.
In the middle of this predicament, the Saudi leaders are turning head to Pakistan, especially as Imran Khan already said he was ready to arrange talks to end the Yemen war and mediate for talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Yemen , two powerful regional actors involved in regional rivalry.
Saudi Arabia, a major investor in Pakistan and of friendly ties with Islamabad, since the beginning of the military intervention in Yemen invited Pakistan to play an active role in the campaign. Islamabad rejected the call, however. This time, in the middle of war and while developments are going on against Riyadh’s will, the Saudis anticipate help from the Pakistanis, at least to help with face-saving exit from Yemen.
Past efforts by Imran Khan to broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Yemen were marred by Saudi excessive expectations and demands. Now it remains to be seen if new pro-efforts by the Pakistani PM could come to fruition.
Saudi-Qatari crisis, Islamabad mediation
The Saudi deputy defense minister has traveled to Islamabad while last week Imran Khan for the second time since his assumption of power visited Qatar. The visit by the Saudi official boosts the possibility that Riyadh seeks to settle crisis with Qatar by Islamabad assistance.
Imran Khan since his start as PM undertook work on regional cases settlement. He tried to bring peace to Saudi-Iranian relations. He several times insisted he could do more to help the two regional heavyweights to develop friendly ties. Now, he appears to be ready to do the same for crisis-hit Riyadh-Doha relations and at the same time win a fresh profile for the Pakistani regional role.
Kashmir, the reason for constant Islamabad grievance against Riyadh
Some Pakistani media reported that Pakistan urged during the meeting Saudi Arabia to play a more serious role in Kashmir cause.
Pakistan constantly invited Muslim states to form an alliance in the face of Indian actions in Kashmir under the leadership of Islamabad. The project failed to come to existence as Muslim governments have their own considerations and Pakistani leaders have their specific requests.
But Saudi Arabia, for its common interests with India and huge investment in the Indian economy, is not interested to enter any dispute with New Delhi. Pakistan, however, continues its expectation from Saudi Arabia, a country whose king titles himself the custodian of the two holy shrines, not to remain passive in dealing with Kashmir's case.
The way Saudi Arabia deals with this demand of Pakistan will importantly influence the future of relations between the two sides.