Amid ties worsening between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has decided not to call off his visit to Pakistan.
Earlier this week, India’s security forces in Kashmir, a region claimed both by India and Pakistan, were the target of a massive attack which led to the death of 44 members of India’s CRPF, a paramilitary unit. It is believed that a vehicle carrying nearly 350 kgs of explosives rammed into one of the buses in the convoy, killing everyone onboard.
India has vowed to isolate Pakistan internationally as it blames the attack on Islamabad. According to Reuters, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, which India says has the backing of the Pakistani government and military. Pakistan has denied this claim, but India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised that action will be taken to avenge the deaths of CRPF personnel.
India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan are not having the desired immediate effect, with Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman not calling off his scheduled visit to Islamabad.
This is the first high-profile visit by an international leader under the rule of new Pakistani premier, Imran Khan, who has been at the helm of the country only for a few months. Khan remains optimistic about MBS’ visit, with Pakistani officials claiming that the Saudi Arabian crown prince is expected to sign agreements amounting to $10 billion.
Saudi Arabia has been a strong financial and strategic ally for Pakistan over the years, with the Wahhabi nation providing bailout packages for Pakistan’s struggling economy a number of times. In return, Pakistan’s military has helped Saudi Arabia and provided security to its royal family, culminating in a relationship which sees the two countries join arms when most of the world is busy shunning both of them.
According to investigations conducted both by American and Turkish intelligence, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have given the order to kill Saudi defector and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey’s Saudi embassy, which has led to most of the world — except the United States — keeping MBS at an arm’s length. Despite this, the Pakistani leadership is hopeful that the crown prince’s visit will attract more investments in a country desperate for economic growth.
MBS’ visit will cause a lot of alarm for India, which is doing all it can to shun Pakistan diplomatically. It has already doubled the taxes on goods imported from Pakistan, and according to the dominant media narrative in India, it is possible the repercussions Pakistan will suffer will go beyond trade.