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Pakistan PM Imran Khan denies 'soured' relations with Saudi Arabia over Kashmir dispute

Khan was quick to reinforce ties with the Kingdom [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 August, 2020

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Prime Minister Khan reiterated Pakistan's friendship with the Kingdom.




Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied rumours that the country’s relationship with ally Saudi Arabia “soured” over its lack of support for Kashmir during the crisis.

The denial comes as his army chief visited Riyadh over a dispute brought about after Pakistan demanded the Kingdom speak out against human rights violations in Kashmir perpetrated by India.

Experts feared the conflict between the two countries may have threatened Saudi Arabia’s support for Islamabad after the Kingdom ended an oil and supply deal – a worry Khan has attempted to put to rest.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s relations remain strong, Khan said during an interview.

“The rumours that our relations with Saudi Arabia have soured are totally false,” he said on the Dunya News television channel.

“Our relations are very good. We are constantly in touch,” he added.

Pakistan’s army chief said his one-day visit to Riyadh was “primarily military-affairs oriented”.

“On the Kashmir issue, there is a view that OIC [the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] should have stepped forward,” Khan said.

“Saudi has its own foreign policy. We shouldn’t think that because we want something Saudi will do just that,” Khan went on to add.

Strained relations

Saudi Arabia abruptly ended a loan and oil supply deal to Pakistan over the country’s criticism of the OIC’s response to the Kashmir crisis.

Relations between Riyadh and Islamabad became strained over the latter's insistence that the OIC convene a meeting for foreign ministers to address India's annexation of areas of the disputed territory under its control. Pakistan has pushed since last August for action on the matter, with limited success.

Relations soured further when Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi last week warned that Pakistan may seek action outside of the Riyadh-led body.

"I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I'll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris," Qureshi was quoted by Dawn as saying.

Qureshi also insisted that the body "show leadership on the issue".

"We have our own sensitivities. You have to realise this. Gulf countries should understand this," Qureshi said.

An incensed Riyadh last week forced Islamabad to repay $1 billion given as part of a $6.2 billion package announced in late 2018.

The package, which was announced during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Pakistan, consisted of $3 billion in loans and a $3.2 billion oil credit facility.

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