Saudi Arabia Seeks Pakistani Weapons, Deepens India Relations

The Saudis seek to weapons from Pakistan at the same time they are deepening defense relations with India.

Government buildings in Islamabad, Pakistan, February 7, 2005
Government buildings in Islamabad, Pakistan, February 7, 2005 (Luke Stiles)

Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks with its ally Pakistan to provide weapons to the Syrian opposition against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

At the same time, it is deepening its military ties to Pakistan’s nemesis, India.

Disappointed in America

The AFP news agency reported this weekend that the Saudis are seeking anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons from Pakistan — weapons the United States have refused to give to Syrian rebels, fearful they might end up in the hands of Islamic extremists.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly apprehensive about American policy in the Middle East.

It was disappointed when President Barack Obama did not follow up on his threat to use force against the Assad regime after it deployed chemical weapons.

It also regards warily American overtures to Iran, its rival for hegemony in the region.

Defense pact

The Saudi request for Pakistani weapons — which has not been confirmed by authorities in either country — comes as Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the defense minister and heir presumptive to the Saudi throne, visited New Delhi to sign a memorandum of understanding about future defense cooperation.

The Indo-Saudi pact would allow for the sharing of defense information, military training and cooperation in logistics and security.

Commercial partner

Commercial relations between India and Saudi Arabia are also expanding. The total trade volume between the two nations has doubled in the last four years, to nearly $44 billion in 2012-2013.

Pakistani-Saudi trade does not exceed $5 billion.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner and biggest provider of oil as international sanctions have forced the latter to cut sales from Iran.

Some two million Indian workers are employed in the Arab kingdom.

Still allies

The Pakistanis, whose economy is expected to grow just 2.3 percent this year, may be uncomfortable with this burgeoning economic relationship but are unlikely to lose an ally.

The Saudis have always supported Pakistan in its many wars with India.

They also collaborated with Pakistan and the United States to support the Afghan mujahideen in their resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia financed Pakistan’s military modernization.

The less robust alliance is the one between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Even if the former has little choice but to remain an American client, given its dependence on American military aid and equipment, it is seeking help elsewhere to wage a proxy war in Syria.

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