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Pakistan Army Chief to Visit Saudi Arabia on Aug. 16

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Courtesy ISPR

Tour comes amid strained ties, with military spokesman claiming it is related to ‘military affairs’

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa will visit Saudi Arabia this weekend as part of a “pre-planned” tour that will be “primarily” focused on military affairs.

According to a report by news agency Reuters, the military’s media wing has claimed the Sunday visit has nothing to do with the current state of ties between Riyadh and Islamabad.

Despite decades of alliance—Riyadh in 2018 gave Islamabad a $3 billion loan and a $3.2 billion oil credit facility—Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s ties have become visibly strained in recent weeks following Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s repeated insistence on an Organization for Islamic Cooperation meeting dedicated to India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Last week, Qureshi told a private TV channel that he would push Prime Minister Imran Khan to seek an “alternate” platform if Riyadh continued to resist calls for a meeting. According to Reuters, Riyadh has made it clear that it irked by Qureshi’s criticism. It cited two senior military officials as claiming Gen. Bajwa’s visit had been motivated by a need to mend fences.

Islamabad two weeks ago repaid $1 billion of the loan it had taken from Riyadh—reportedly using a fresh loan from China to make the payment. Qureshi has claimed Riyadh is suffering from a COVID-induced economic downturn, and needed the money back for its internal affairs. Meanwhile, the oil credit facility between Riyadh and Islamabad has expired and there have been no indications to renew it despite requests to do so from Pakistan.

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