Middle East

Pakistani army chief visits Saudi Arabia to revive strained ties

RIYADH (Reuters) – Pakistan’s army chief arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday amid a row between the two countries that has threatened Riyadh’s financial lifeline to Islamabad.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit was “primarily military-affairs oriented,” the Pakistani army spokesman said.

But Pakistani military and government officials have told Reuters that Bajwa would use his good offices to try to calm the situation that if not reversed could badly hurt Pakistan’s central bank foreign reserves.

A traditional ally, Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a three billion dollar loan and $3.2 billion oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis in late 2018.

Irked by Islamabad demands for Riyadh to convene a high-level meeting to highlight arch-rival India’s alleged human rights violations in the disputed Kashmir region, Saudi Arabia has forced Pakistan to pay back one billion dollars prematurely and is demanding another one billion dollars of the loan.

Riyadh has also not responded to Pakistani requests to extend the oil facility, military and finance ministry officials have told Reuters.

The head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Faiz Hameed, was accompanying Bajwa, a Pakistani military source said

Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Asif Shahzad and Lisa Barrington; editing by Angus MacSwan

Image: FILE PHOTO: Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives to attend the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

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