Last updated on February 23rd, 2019
Saudi Arabia nodded positively to Pakistan’s request of releasing more than 2,000 Pakistani prisoners held within the Kingdom. The statement came after Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) promised to deliver “whatever he can do” for the Pakistanis living in his country.
Consecutively, the Crown Prince, who arrived in India on Tuesday for bilateral talks, ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners as well. The statement came after India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi requested MbS to take the step.
Initiating Ties with Pakistan
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed a deal of more than $20bn of Saudi investment during his visit, aimed to strengthen ties between the two nations. The deal marked an instrumental achievement for Pakistan and its failing economy, especially when it faces a painful balance of payment crisis.
Major cash inflows from the UAE and Riyadh in the recent times have helped Pakistan stay afloat, and allowed Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to delay a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Correspondingly, the millions of Pakistanis working in the Gulf nation are vital to their source of foreign currency. Besides, the thousands of other who are poor laborers, having faced torture in the nation, also awaited a legal course of action from their government, which finally came on Sunday.
Following such conditions, Khan thus raised the matter with MbS on Sunday night at the welcome ceremony, making a “special request” to him to look into the hardships faced by Pakistani laborers in Saudi Arabia.
However, the hardships and tortures aren’t limited to Pakistanis alone. According to the World Report 2018, released by HRW, the kafala (visa sponsorship) system associated with migrant workers gives them the permission to leave the nation under normal circumstances. However, as they reach Saudi, employers confiscate their passports, withhold wages, and force them to indefinitely work in the nation.
Fawad Chaudhry, the Information Minister, said on Monday morning, “His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of KSA Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails.”
Improving Ties with India
MbS announced infrastructure and trade agreements after meeting with the Indian Prime Minister in Delhi, on Wednesday. During his visit to India, the two nations signed five accords on infrastructure, investment, touring, housing, broadcasting and for setting up of a “strategic partnership council”. The oil-rich Gulf nation also claimed that it sees investment opportunities worth $100 billion in India.
“This MBS trip will take our relations to a new level. We already have substantial energy, political and economic ties,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia.”
“Saudi Arabia and India should work together in Afghanistan, there is a golden opportunity here. India can also offer its diplomatic services to reduce the distrust between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he added.
Besides, during a press conference with Prince Mohammed, Modi referred to the Pulwama attack and claimed working along with Riyadh “to put pressure on all countries supporting terrorism”.
MbS to which responded by saying “terrorism and extremism is a common concern” for India and his Kingdom. He added, “I want to state that we are ready to cooperate with India in every way, including through intelligence sharing,”.
Contrarily, the move to release both Pakistani and Indian prisoners was deemed a bit surprising, but nonetheless, it is one of the few steps taken in the right direction by the Saudi Crown Prince.
Pakistan and Saudi’s have long shared close ties. While the sheikhdom has assisted Pakistan financially, the latter has defended its royal family, especially after what transpired in the recent months following the death of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
MbS’ visit also marked the biggest state visit since the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in 2015. With economic boost on cards for Pakistan and India, Riyadh is also looking to derive benefits by working across Asia to boost its oil markets.