General MM Naravane’s historic visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia as India’s first Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has spooked Pakistan as its ties with the Gulf nations have soured in recent times.
The Indian Army chief’s visit comes close on the heels of Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s trip to Bahrain and the UAE last month. The tour is aimed at bolstering bilateral defense ties with the two strategically significant Gulf nations.
General Naravane visited the UAE from December 9 to 10 and went to Saudi Arabia in the second leg of his journey from December 13-14. In the UAE, the Indian Army chief received a guard of honor at the headquarters of the Emirate’s land forces; he discussed issues of bilateral defense cooperation with Major General Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al Ameri.
General MM Naravane #COAS received a Guard of Honour at HQ Royal Saudi #LandForces. #COAS discussed issues of bilateral defence cooperation with General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutir, Commander Royal Saudi Land Forces.#Cooperation#Friendship pic.twitter.com/rFgTD8YiEh
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) December 13, 2020
During his visit to Riyadh, General Naravane met top Saudi Generals, including military staff chief General Fayyad bin Hamid Ruwaili and Commander of the Joint Forces Lieutenant General Mutlaq bin Salim bin Al-Azima to exchange views on defense cooperation.
Pakistani experts and media have rung alarm bells over India’s growing proximity to Saudi Arabia, criticizing Islamabad’s foreign policy.
Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, the founder of The Friday Times, wrote that Pakistan’s foreign policy is facing challenges on many fronts but Pakistan’s biggest failure is Imran Khan’s approach to the Middle East.
He emphasized that Pak-Saudi and Pak-Gulf States relations have nose-dived, hurting Pakistan significantly and that Saudi Arabia’s promise to invest $10 billion in Gwadar has all gone down due to Khan’s “petulant attempt to build a rival anti-OIC bloc with Turkey, Iran, and Malaysia — countries of no strategic or even transactional value to Pakistan with leaders hostile to Mohammed bin Salman”.
General MM Naravane #COAS visited King Abdul Aziz Military Academy and exchanged views on military training. #COAS visit to #SaudiArabia will strengthen bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.#Cooperation#Friendship pic.twitter.com/rz2UlW8hTu
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) December 14, 2020
General MM Naravane #COAS visited Saudi Armed Forces Command and Staff College and National Defence University. #COAS also addressed the Faculty & student officers attending the #WarCourse.#Cooperation#Friendship pic.twitter.com/9J3EQ1e99L
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) December 14, 2020
When Pakistan raised questions in the OIC about the removal of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir by India, Saudi Arabia said it was India’s internal matter. A frustrated Pakistan criticized the statement which antagonized Riyadh.
An angry Saudi Arabia demanded Pakistan repay part of the $3-billion loan and has frozen a $3.2-billion oil credit facility because of a dispute over how to deal with New Delhi on Jammu and Kashmir.
‘Iron brother’ China has come to the rescue of Pakistan as it has agreed to immediately provide $1.5 billion to help Islamabad repay the $2-billion debt to Saudi Arabia, The Express Tribune reported.
The increasing cooperation between India and the two Gulf nations has irked Pakistan who has been its traditional ally. The Pakistani troops are routinely stationed in Saudi Arabia guarding the royal family in Riyadh. The Pakistani military has also led the training of Saudi troops.
Over the years, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have enjoyed fruitful relations with Riyadh extending financial aid and oil supply to Pakistan.
Not just Saudi Arabia, but the Pakistan-UAE relations are also going through a rough patch. After the UAE and Israel signed the peace deal, brokered by Washington, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to establish any ties with Israel until the Palestinians get their rights.
With the Indian Army chief’s visit to the Gulf, it has opened the possibility of the UAE and Saudi Arabia buying Indo-Russian BrahMos Missile.
Very significant. Apart from deepening bilateral ties in sensitive area,signals loosening of SA/UAE ties with Pak. With Raheel Sharif employed by SA to head Islamic counterterrorism coalition, inviting Naravane sends piquant message. With UAE defence coop already on agenda. https://t.co/mEFPSCEbtE
— Kanwal Sibal (@KanwalSibal) December 3, 2020
During a television interview with ARY News, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Pakistan cannot dictate Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy although Islamabad’s relations have definitely deteriorated with Riyadh.
The anchor pointed out that the situations have been worsened so much so that the Indian Army chief is visiting the country where Pakistan has strong military ties and where the Pakistani troops are engaged in the protection of the holiest place in Islam, Mecca, and Medina.
Furthermore, the UAE has also suspended the issuance of visas to Muslim majority countries, including Pakistan, citing security reasons. Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said it is “believed to be related to the second wave of Covid-19”.
Former Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit tweeted asking, Islamabad to immediately reach out to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Our relations with Saudi Arabia are too important to be dealt with casually. PMIk must reach out to MBS as I submitted earlier in a Vlog. https://t.co/ZWKaCE74SO
— Abdul Basit (@abasitpak1) December 14, 2020