Prince on tour: Muhammad bin Salman


Saudi Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is pivoting eastward this week. He's on a tour of Asia. Believe that San gonna be very very important country in the coming, and you want to be sure that part of that with stops in Pakistan, India and China the trip is a strategically important one for the prince he has had a very rocky six months. He's been accused of ordering the murder of dissident journalist, Joel shalt g in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is father death has rocked relations between the west and Saudi Arabia. So this tour is a way of cleansing away some of the diplomatic opprobrium that is taxed to him in the west to Sean Joshi is our defense editor he is looking for friends who will happen focus on other more harmonious matters in Pakistan. He has a very pliant friend. But also India and China who will not obsess over Saudi Arabia's human rights record and will deal with him on more pragmatic basis, which is to say, they can talk oil. They can talk not just Oriel. Other types of investment regional security counter terrorism with India, particularly keen to get Saudi help on chasing up Pakistani wrongdoers, and they can talk missiles and strategic weapons with China. But in that region there is quite a lot going on. Let's take those sort of destinations one by one. He's already been to Pakistan. What are his ambitions? And what are the issues there? Well, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have historically been extremely close part of it for Pakistan is money. They are being squeezed towards the IMF for a bailout and Saudi Arabia has just agreed twenty billion dollars of investment agreements. Pakistan, also sends troops to Saudi Arabia to train with the Saudis. It has contributed forces to the campaign in Yemen. But of course, Pakistan, also neighbors Iran, which you Saudi Arabia's arch rival, so there's a lot more going on in terms of also containing Iran's influence, so what exactly was he trying to secure in Pakistan, one of the most important projects. He's looking at is. Funding a big oil refinery in the port of guava in Pakistan's Balochistan province, and that's important for a number of reasons right now, it's the centerpiece of China's economic corridor in Pakistan, so he's competing with Beijing. It's very near the Iranian port of Chabahar where India is investing. So he's competing with deady, but more importantly than all of that, Balochistan neighbors Iran, and so he is building a presence right next door to Iranian territory. There have been rumors that Saudi Arabia has funded groups in Balochistan, which is where gutter is located that have conducted attacks inside, Iran. So I think this is likely to be another step in the Saudi campaign to push back at Iran. I suppose I'm wondering why this visit might be so welcome on the part of all of these countries. If what he's doing his tipping into some pretty tricky, local dynamics kind of on all fronts in in every direction. Why isn't he viewed as kind of a destabilizing force? Well, I think the Indians will call. Where he is. Now, they historically might have seen Saudi Arabia as a stabilizing force supporting radical Islamist movements that were causing trouble in places like Kashmir and other parts of India. But in recent years, India has tried to reset its relationship with Saudi Arabia. It wants Saudi investment and it wants to coke Saudi Arabia away from Pakistan and officials in New Delhi or still reeling from last week's terror attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, which it blamed on Pakistan. Isn't that sort of complicating the dynamics I think it probably is. I think that India is focused on this terrible attack that took place the worst attack in Kashmir in decades, and this profound anger in India and desire among many people to take some sort of retaliatory military action now Mohammed bin Salman presence in Pakistan, first of all and then his visit to India has complicated that for the Indians. But I think what they will be doing is using the opportunity to try and say to him look, we know your close to package. Stan we know you'll building a relationship, but we are a bigger more important country. Don't you want to work with us and try and put pressure on the Pakistanis to end their support of terrorism? So quite the opposite. Then of everyone trying to shun him everyone instead wants his ear quite badly. I think that's right. I think that for the Chinese as well where he will be heading after India China will think well, here's an American ally. If we can give him weapons advanced technology, perhaps build economic ties his an opportunity to try and peel away another American ally and win one over the Americans. Do you suppose that this tour will accomplish its goal of kind of shaking off the shadow of the Jamaica Shoji affair, I think it will show the west that Saudi Arabia has other partners, and that will probably push some people to say, look, we can't stop talking about kashogi. But we have to be aware that Saudi Arabia is an important partner. Indeed, only in the last week British. Officials have been complaining that German arms export ban on Saudi Arabia has grounded its fleet of typhoon fighter jets. So people already worried that some of the pressure on Saudi Arabia is resulting in lost commercial opportunities and the more. He can show that he has friends in other parts of the world, even potential suppliers of arms, the more. He will be able to say to the west you better talk to me at some point. Because if not I will find other people to speak with and I'm also intimately involved in all of these other sort of cross border conflicts that you you might need my help with. We'll absolutely. And I think the biggest of all and the biggest prize here is the peace. Talks over ghanistan Saudi Arabia has had a relationship with Afghanistan's Pakistan is central to the process of the peace talks. And so if the west feels that Saudi Arabia could play an important role in cajoling Pakistan to push the Taliban to the table if it could coax the insurgent directly to the table then. That may be one more step on the road to rehabilitation for no had been solo.

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