PM, Saudi King vow to strengthen relations (Dawn (Pakistan))

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud emphasised on Wednesday the importance of PakistanSaudi relations and vowed to strengthen them in various fields.
The two leaders held extensive talks at the King’s Palace, covering bilateral relations, and regional and international issues.
The prime minister, who arrived here in the afternoon on a threeday official visit, was accorded a warm reception, with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud personally greeting him at the King Khalid International Airport.
A smartly turned out contingent presented a guard of honour and national anthems of both the countries were played.
The King was accompanied by Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the Second Crown Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad bin Naif, Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, princes, cabinet ministers and high military and civil officials.
During the talks, the prime minister expressed the confidence that during the reign of King Salman relations between the two countries would touch new heights.
The king said that Saudi Arabia attached great importance to its relations with Pakistan and would like to see them strengthened.
The prime minister said the two countries were bound by shared faith and enjoyed excellent relations since the independence of Pakistan.
King Salman said that Saudi Arabia would be happy to strengthen its relations with Pakistan in all fields of possible cooperation. He particularly mentioned the need for increased interaction between the business communities of the two countries.
The prime minister thanked the Saudi leadership for providing valuable assistance to Pakistan in the time of need.
The two leaders also discussed matters relating to the region and agreed that terrorism and extremism were common enemies and both nations would continue to cooperate with each other in the field of security.
Mr Sharif extended an invitation to King Salman to visit Pakistan which was accepted.
King Salman hosted a lunch in honour of Mr Sharif, which was attended by ministers, members of the royal family and local dignitaries.
During the visit, the prime minister will perform Umra and meet members of the Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia.
Baqir Sajjad Syed adds from Islamabad: Saudi Arabia has been extremely perturbed over developments in its neighbourhood, including the takeover of Sanaa (Yemen) by Shia Houthi militia, the threat posed by the selfstyled Islamic State, and chances of a nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers (known as the P5+1: the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China).
In view of the situation, Riyadh launched hectic diplomatic contacts by first hosting Egyptian President Sissi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the past few days. Mr Sharif is the third leader to visit Saudi Arabia during this period and would be followed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is expected on Thursday to brief Saudi King on talks with Iran on its nuclear programme.
Security cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia dates back to the Ziaul Haq era. The existing security cooperation is about military training; joint exercises and cooperation on operational preparedness. According to a conservative estimate, the number of Pakistani troops in the Kingdom is not more than a few dozens, most of whom are trainers.
Financial Times in a report on Mr Sharif’s visit said Riyadh would push him to increase the number of Pakistani troops in the country.
Saudi leadership is known to be keeping a separate, but stronger, relationship with Pakistan military. King Salman had earlier broached the idea of extension in security cooperation when Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Rashad Mehmood visited him last month.
Mr Sharif consulted Gen Mehmood on Tuesday before embarking on the Saudi trip.
Defence analysts believe that Pakistan may not be able to pledge a large number of troops because of security commitments at home where the army is engaged in the fight against militants.
Former Defence Secretary Lt Gen retired Asif Yasin Malik, commenting on agreement on security cooperation, said: “The Saudi leadership derives strength from Pakistan and its armed forces.”
Military Spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said at this moment there was no plan to increase the number of troops in Saudi Arabia.