RIYADH/ISLAMABAD, FEB 5 (MAMOSA Report) — Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif was warmly received by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister here today.
The Crown Prince expressed warm sentiments about Pakistan and said that the Kingdom has a special relationship with Pakistan. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the status of bilateral cooperation in the field of defense.
In a reflection of the warmth existing between the two countries, the Crown Prince conferred King Abdulaziz Order of Excellence on General Raheel Sharif.
The visit is the first ever abroad by the Pakistan army chief and indicates the importance Pakistan’s defense forces attach to relations with the Kingdom. The General is in the kingdom for pushing plans for a “new era in strategic partnership” between the two countries, Dawn reported, adding that he is expected to talk about the “whole gamut” of Pak-Saudi ties.
The army spokesman said Gen Sharif had been invited by the Saudi authorities for the visit.
On the first day of his visit to Riyadh, the General had a busy schedule. He held meetings with General Hussain bin Abdullah Al Qubayal, Chief of General Staff, Saudi Armed Forces and Lieutenant General Eid bin Awad Al Shalawi, Commander Royal Saudi Land Forces in Riyadh. In these meetings, in which Pakistan Ambassador to Saudi, Muhammad Naeem Khan was also present, the two sides reviewed status of bilateral cooperation and agreed to further strengthen defense cooperation.
General Raheel Sharif also visited the Ministry of Interior and held a meeting with General Abdul Rahman Al-Rubaian, Deputy Minister of Interior.
General Raheel Sharif was briefed on the counter-terrorism performance of the Ministry. He expressed appreciation of the functioning of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Counseling and Care for rehabilitation of militants. He said that the two countries enjoy close cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism.
Earlier, General Sharif was accorded high protocol on his arrival in the Kingdom yesterday. He was received by His Royal Highness General Fahd bin Turki, Deputy Commander, Royal Saudi Land Forces at the airport. General Raheel Sharif will continue his engagements in Riyadh tomorrow.
The Army Chief is in the kingdom on a three-day visit. Dawn reported today that the Pakistan Army has always had excellent relations with the Saudi leaders. The two maintained same level of relationship even during the five years of PPP government during which the political ties apparently remained rather cold.
However, a new momentum in the ties is visible since the change in the government and more importantly after the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal to Islamabad last month. The foreign minister’s visit was immediately followed by Saudi deputy defense minister’s extensive trip in which he explored the opportunities for expanding defense cooperation.
The deputy defense minister had led a 17-member team on the exploratory visit.
Though, no new defense deal between Riyadh and Islamabad has been struck as yet, but there are indications that the two are interested in expanding cooperation in the fields of training, military exchanges, and sale/purchase of defense hardware. Pakistan-China joint production of JF-17 Thunder jets are one of them, media reports said.