NIGHTWATCH: Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Military Pact — Implications for China, India, Iran, And All Others

Military, Peace Intelligence
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Pakistan – Saudi Arabia: The initial features of a bilateral strategic security and defense agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been agreed upon, according to unconfirmed sources.

Under the agreement, Pakistan reportedly will provide all possible support to the Saudi army for defense of Saudi soil in any case of foreign aggression. Rumors in Pakistan report that two Pakistan Army divisions will be designated for deployment to Saudi Arabia on short notice.

As to arms sales, Saudi Arabia is interested in purchasing from Pakistan 50 JF-Thunder 17 and 20 other modern aircraft and 80 Al Khalid tanks – all built in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia also has expressed interest in purchasing light tactical weapons and missile technology.

Saudi Arabia reportedly will invest in Pakistan’s defense industries and will use its influence to facilitate the sale of Pakistani defense products, tools, equipment and technical skills in the markets of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia reportedly intends to seek technical assistance from China and Pakistan for establishing a modern aviation industry in Saudi Arabia. Pakistani aeronautical engineers, technicians and other staff will work jointly with Saudis and Chinese technicians and advisors.

Comment: No officials have confirmed the agreement, but the Pakistani defense media have been buzzing for weeks about it. If the reports of a strategic defense agreement are even partly accurate, then Iran now must represent a close second to India as the “enemy” in Pakistani strategic military planning. That might be good news for stability in South Asia, at least.

In principle, this reported agreement might be understood as the next stage in a longstanding, less formal security arrangement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In the past, Pakistan deployed entire units, up to brigade echelon, for Saudi security. In return, concessional Saudi oil sales prevented Pakistan from simply grinding to a halt.

In fact the agreement appears to represent a strategic shift in several senses. First, it is the next stage — after large US arms purchases — in Saudi Arabia’s preparations for an eventual war against Shiite Islam, backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia has made major purchases of US anti-tank weapons that far exceed the manpower of Saudi forces. This report suggests Pakistani soldiers will fire them.

Second, Saudi Arabia is reducing its reliance on the US for its defense and is diversifying its weapons sources. Saudi Arabia could be the place where Pakistani soldiers integrate the best of US and Chinese weapons in a religious fight to defend the Saudi Kingdom against the Shiites.

Third, for the US, the agreement indicates regional powers are making their own security arrangements.

Finally, it also implies that a major ground war could occur between Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies against Iran and its Shiite allies. It would affect the US in many ways on many levels. The US might not be consulted nor be capable of providing much military assistance.

What is ironic is that China would be in the catbird’s seat because it would be arming both sides in such a fight. That means China might be more important in influencing the outcome of such a confrontation than the US, for the first time.

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