Pakistan and its Allies
Today’s Daily Update focusses on developments in Pakistan’s relations with its three closest allies, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
- Pakistan’s Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif has sought China’s help in solving his country’s grave energy crisis and other economic challenges, during a meeting with visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. He also announced that strengthening ties with China will be his country’s top foreign policy priority. In the same meeting, the Chinese Premier thanked Pakistan for its help in tracking down Chinese militants operating in China’s Uyghur-dominated Xinjiang province that borders Pakistan. Also, China formally assumed charge of Pakistan’s strategically significant Gwadar Port on Thursday, following a bilateral agreement signed earlier this year.
- Meanwhile, Pakistan’s other close ally, Saudi Arabia, “is expected to extend a bailout package of about $15 billion to Pakistan’s highly indebted energy sector”, according to Dawn News. According to the report, Pakistan expects a deal where Saudi Arabia would provide around 100,000 barrels of crude oil and about 15,000 tons of furnace oil per day on deferred payment for three years. Currently, Pakistan imports around 400,000 barrels of oil per day 30,000 tons of furnace oil. Significantly, the report cites a Pakistani official who said that “the breathing space provided by the likely Saudi package could also be used for renegotiating gas price with Iran for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to bring it down to a sustainable level”.
- US President Barack Obama strongly defended his country’s drone-strike policy in Pakistan in a speech delivered on thursday in Washington. It was the first time that Obama spoke extensively about the controversial programme. He called the drone strikes a part of a legitimate campaign against terrorism, while simultaneously adding that civilian deaths caused by the strikes “haunt us”. Obama also renewed his call for the closure of the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but did not provide specifics of when that would happen.