Analysts mixed about Saudi aid to Pakistan

Pakistan has applied for financial support from its closest allies, including China and Saudi Arabia, and a rescue package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help restore the economy and address debt and balance of payments problems.

Earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received financial commitments from China during a four-day official visit to China, where he met leaders, including President Xi Jinping.

Chinese and Pakistani officials have not given details, but they say that China is planning to provide an unspecified financial "subsidy" to Pakistan.

In addition to other financial transactions, Khan also received more than $ 6 billion in financial support from Saudi Arabia during a September visit there. And the United Arab Emirates allegedly consider Islamabad's application for up to $ 6 billion.

Which strings are included?

However, many experts say that taking financial support from the Saudi and UAE may require a diplomatic or strategic payback period.

"It is unlikely that a $ 6 billion gift would come unconditionally," Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the US-based Wilson Center, told VOA.

"I suppose Islamabad is likely to have to reconfirm its loyalty to KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], with the implication that Pakistan must distance itself from the strong assertion of neutrality of the Imran Khan government in the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, "Kugelman added.

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the United States and director of South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, reverberated Kugelman's assessment.

In a recent version before The printHaqqani said that Riyadh wants Pakistan to support the kingdom against the actions of Iran in the region.

In this photo, released by the state-run Saudi news agency, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets on September 19, 2018, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.

Stand with the kingdom

"Saudi Arabia is also unwilling to continue giving cash and later making requests, something it has done in the past as a friend of Pakistan The current leader, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, wants Pakistan create ambiguity and support the Kingdom against Iran alongside delivering troops or other material support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen, "wrote Haqqani.

"The Saudi's say they are willing to invest in Pakistan, but like the Chinese they want security and a good return on their investments," added Haqqani.

"Saudi Arabia has money and Pakistan has military power with a great strategic location Saudi Arabia is facing pressure from Turkey, Iran, and now it is not in good alignment with Washington after [Saudi journalist Jamal] Khashoggi's delivery, and that's why it wants to disregard a big country like Pakistan, "said Kamran Bokhari, another South Asian analyst, in Washington.

Afghan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with the Chinese Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, 8 September 2018. (Handout from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Reuters) .

Afghan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with the Chinese Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, 8 September 2018. (Handout from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Reuters) .

Domestic interests

While Pakistani officials claim that Saudi aid is based on mutual financial and strategic interests, some legislators in the country have expressed concern about what they call ambiguity of the terms and conditions.

"Should Pakistan take part in the Saudi war in Yemen, or should you choose Saudi because of their sunni-Shiite rivalry with Iran?" Farhat Ullah Babar, a high-ranking legislator of Pakistani opposition Pakistan Peoples, told the VOA.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the Pakistani Senate on Wednesday, however, that Saudi Arabia had not asked Pakistan to take part in the war in Yemen in exchange for financial aid.

"We have received an unconditional package from Saudi Arabia and no conditions have been imposed," said Qureshi.

Qureshi told lawmakers that Khan had only offered to play a mediator role to resolve the Yemeni conflict and that his initiative had been welcomed by all parties involved.

Shiite versus Sunnis

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistan-based security analyst, warns that any military involvement in the regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have serious consequences for Pakistan.

"Saudi Arabia would like to use the military strength of Pakistan in its favor, Pakistan should clearly define its role as it has a large Shiite minority and every battle or rivalry with Iran will also affect Pakistan," Rizvi told VOA.

Some analysts, such as Fatemeh Aman, a non-resident senior fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, believe that the Arab rival countries of Iran are already supporting local uprisings in the border between Iran and Pakistan.

"It is assumed that the Arab neighbors of Iran are [a] major financial support for uprising groups in the border regions of Iran, including Baluchistan. More rebellion in the very unstable region of Baluchistan can be a disaster[ing] impact on both Iran and Pakistan, "Aman told VOA.

Pakistan shares a 900-kilometer-long porous border with Iran in the Baluchistan province, which has long been full of drug smugglers, separatists and militant movements.

The attitude of Iran

Iran has complained that anti-Iranian militants use Pakistani territory to expel cross-border attacks within Iran, but the country has cautiously welcomed Saudi aid to Pakistan.

"Iran would always support Pakistan, which is in its interest," said Mehdi Honardoost, Iran's ambassador to Pakistan, to Pakistan's press agency APP in response to Saudi's $ 6 billion assistance .

Sahar Khan, a South Asian research colleague at the Washington-based Cato Institute, believes that Tehran seems to give the benefit of the doubt to Islamabad.

"I think Iran largely understands that Khan's search for Saudi money has more to do with the economic crisis in Pakistan than with the relationship with Iran," Sahar Khan said.

"For many years Pakistan has a good relationship with GCC countries without compromising the relationship with Iran, and I think [Prime Minister] Khan is very aware of this, although his offer to serve as a mediator between the Saudis and Iranians in Yemen is threatening this, "she added.

Sahar Khan referred to Prime Minister Khan's speech in September, announcing that Pakistan would play the role of mediator in the Yemen conflict.

"The offer of Imran Khan to be a mediator in Yemen after accepting $ 6 billion Saudi money seems a bit strange and not very well thought out, after all, how can Pakistan be a mediator if a party has given the money?" Khan said from Cato.

VOA & # 39; s Mehdi Jenidia, Ayaz Gul and Asad Hassan have contributed to this report.

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