Pakistan has found itself in a fruitful position, having mended relations with the Saudi-led bloc of Arab nations, while also maintaining ties with an alternate alliance challenging for a leadership role in the wider Muslim world.
This was evident when last week, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visited Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit at the organization’s headquarters.
While Pakistan’s Foreign Office has stated that these discussion focused on economics, it was speculated that these talks were a continuation of Pakistan’s wider efforts to mend ties with the Saudi bloc, after Qureshi asked the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to stop delaying on convening a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir, in August.
After the Pakistan-Arab League rift emerged in August, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates asked Pakistan to repay $4 billion in loans, originally taken out in 2018.
Furthermore, in December the United Arab Emirates suspended the issuance of work visas to Pakistani nationals, and now in contrast Saudi Arabia and the UAE each rolled over loans of $1 billion to Islamabad.
In addition, plans for a $10 billion Saudi Aramco oil refinery in the port city of Gwadar has also seen a new surge in progress, as according to Shahzeb Khan Kakar, Director-General of the Gwadar Development Authority, has told reporters that planning for a mega oil city will be completed within six to seven months.
It has been speculated that the Gulf nations have recalibrated their positions after attempting to pressure Pakistan, as the country’s stature as the second largest Muslim country in the world (according to population) will largely dictate its support in the region – especially when it comes to the recognition of Israel.