Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif arrived today in Saudi Arabia on a state visit meant to smooth relations between the countries. Matters are tense between the two Sunni powers after Pakistan’s refusal to join Riyadh in the Saudi intervention in Yemen, despite the billions in ‘aid’ Saudi Arabia has funneled to its neighbor across the water over the years. “The Saudis were particularly perturbed over not physically seeing Pakistanis on their side. This visit will address that perception and convey to the regional actors in the clearest terms that Pakistan stands by Saudi Arabia,” a Pakistani diplomat told Dawn.
Saim Saeed’s recent piece for TAI is a must-read for those who want to understand the dynamics behind the recent Pakistani decision. Perhaps his most important point, however, returns our focus to Riyadh:
Crucially, Saudi Arabia is also rumored to depend on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in case of emergencies. Ian Bremmer has pithily said, “Saudi Arabia already has a nuclear program. It’s called Pakistan.”
If things continue to get worse between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Saudis may opt to cash that chip in—which is why today’s visit, and ongoing relations between the two powers, is so significant.