Saudi Arabia has ended a loan and associated oil supply to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s criticism that Riyadh-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is not doing enough on the Kashmir issue, signalling further deterioration in relations between the two allies. Pakistan Foreign Minister had even threatened to split OIC if the group fails to convene a stand-alone session on Kashmir, The Economic Times reported.
Pakistan had to repay a Saudi loan of $1 billion after Pakistan persisted that it should lead OIC on the Kashmir issue. The loan was part of a $6.2 billion package announced by Saudi Arabia in November 2018, which included a total of $3 billion in loans and an oil credit facility amounting to $3.2 billion. Those deals were then signed when Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman made a visit to Pakistan in February last year.
But Saudi Arabia focussing on further expanding partnership with India has not shown any willingness to convene a stand-alone meet on Kashmir.
Last week Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, asked the OIC to stop dilly-dallying on convening a meeting of the group’s Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir.
Qureshi had told local media: “I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. 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.”
In response to a reporter’s query, Qureshi also said that Pakistan could not wait any further and threatened that if the OIC fails to summon the CFM meeting, Pakistan would be ready to go for a session outside OIC.
The minister recalled that Pakistan skipped the Kuala Lumpur summit in December on Saudi Arabia’s request and “now Pakistani Muslims are demanding Riyadh to show leadership on the issue”.
Pakistan’s stance is backed by Turkey which wants to challenge Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the Islamic world. Riyadh backs New Delhi’s stand that Kashmir is its domestic matter. The UAE, Oman, and some North African and West Asian nations are among the other Muslim-majority nations backing India on this. India also has tacit support from Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim nation. Besides Central Asian states have also backed India.
In May, Maldives had initiated a move to oppose Pakistan's rant against India at the OIC meet. Saudi Arabia and the UAE (once traditional allies of Pakistan) had backed the stand taken by Maldives, a sign of their expanding ties with New Delhi. Oman, India's oldest strategic partner in the Gulf region, is believed to have stated at the meet that the discourse is part of India’s internal affairs, according to sources.
A number of other countries from the OIC had not responded to Pakistan’s initiative led by its permanent representative (PR) at the UN. Interestingly, UAE’s decision to back India had drawn a backlash from Pakistan-based social media. The UAE had chaired the virtual meeting of the PRs on May 19.