Speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Mashallah Shakeri said that the joint air exercise of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States has messages, noting: For various reasons, Pakistan-Saudi relations are not very favorable in the current situation and do not have the prominence of the past. However, the expectations of the two sides were not met and there is some mutual resentment in the political arena; but this does not mean that the resentment would be extended to other regions.
Referring to the influence and position of the military in Pakistan’s political system, he added: In that country, the military has roles both on and behind the scenes, and wherever it is felt that politicians should not come forward, the military enters and is usually considered the backbone of maintaining relations; therefore, this joint exercise seems to be a positive message from both sides.
Ties among Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US in military arena
Recalling that the three countries have some ties in military arena, the Iranian diplomat said: Structure of the army and the armed forces of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a lot in common with each other, including in the area of military equipment, aircraft and other equipment that are typically American, higher education of the military officers of the two countries in the United States and therefore their military structure is American.
Shakeri referred to Saudi-Pakistani military interactions and continued: For example, Mr. Raheel Sharif, the former commander of the Pakistani army, was appointed as the commander of the coalition that Saudi Arabia formed as the Counter-Terrorism Coalition. There are unconfirmed reports that Pakistani military forces are assisting Saudi Arabia directly or indirectly at lower levels.
The expert on international affairs added: Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt were the three countries that participated in this exercise as observers, which shows a kind of similarity in policies with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Emphasizing the need to pay attention to the unity and dependence of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the economic and military fields, he continued: In any case, Pakistan has enjoyed Saudi generosity to Muslim countries in need and has benefited from Saudi Arabia’s position from different angles. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, needs Pakistan, which is mainly in the field of skilled and expert manpower in the military.
Pakistani-Saudi military relations
Shakeri referred to the historical evidence of the close relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, adding: Saudi Arabia has paid attention to Pakistan both historically and at different times, which have deep roots and cannot be eliminated in the relations between the two countries. The Pakistani military has significant trade-offs in both Saudi military training and joint maneuvers.
The former Iranian ambassador to Islamabad added: In a way, the Pakistanis have guaranteed the supply of Saudi military demands at any time and in any amount and level they can. In addition, US domination of relations between the two countries is very influential in the proximity of the two countries.
Saying that the Pakistanis expected more from Saudi Arabia’s support for the Kashmir issue, he said: However, the resentment and despair of the Pakistanis is not enough to have a profound effect on the building blocks and key components of the strengthening of Saudi-Pakistani relations. It is a miscalculation to think that there is a difference in the relations between the two countries. Relations between the two countries are still in place. Although there is a rift in this relationship, we cannot attribute it to their military relations.
However, Shakeri stressed: The Pakistanis are not waiting for orders to regulate their relations with other countries, and they have their own parameters and components in regulating their foreign relations, as we see in their relations with China, which is not very desirable to the United States.
Referring to the objectives of the exercise, he said that it is normal and natural to do it with other countries every year and added: Pakistan holds regular exercises with the Chinese every year, Pakistan naval exercises with Japan and South Korea to ensure maritime security are noteworthy. They have held several air and naval exercises with China, Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia. They have had two exercises with Iran; therefore, joint military exercises of Pakistani military forces with other countries is not a new and innovative issue.
In Pakistan’s view, exercises are not a message to a third country
Saying that the Pakistanis do not see the exercises as a signal to other countries, and despite some references to their traditional rival, India, say they are not a threat to a third country, Shakeri said: The exercise was dubbed the “Aces Meet 2021” maneuvers. Although the concept of terrorism is different in the eyes of the three countries, they have emphasized that given that the armed forces and their military structure are of the same gender, those exercises make them realize their strengths and weaknesses.
He also said that the level of the closing ceremony they held was not excellent and outstanding and their honorary guest was the Saudi ambassador to Islamabad and the representative of the Americans was the air attaché of the US embassy.