Army chief to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties

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Army chief to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties
Army chief to visit Saudi Arabia in quest to smooth ties

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will visit Saudi Arabia this weekend, seeking to calm diplomatic strains over Kashmir as financial support for Islamabad hangs in the balance.

The two countries are traditionally close and Saudi Arabia in 2018 gave Pakistan a $3 billion loan and $3.2 billion oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis.

But Riyadh is irked by criticism from Pakistan that Saudi Arabia has been lukewarm on the Kashmir territorial dispute, two senior military officials told Reuters, motivating General Bajwa’s planned fence-building visit on Sunday.

“Yes he is travelling,” ISPR chief Major General Babar Iftikhar told Reuters, though the official line was that the visit was pre-planned and “primarily military affairs oriented.”

Pakistan has long pressed the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to convene a high-level meeting to highlight Indian violations in occupied Kashmir.

But the OIC has only held low-level meetings so far.

“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,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told local media last week.

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