While terming Pakistan a “friendly country,” Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it was “worried” about the prevailing situation and spread of extremism there and appealed to political leaders in Pakistan to unite and meet the challenges.
“Well, Pakistan is a friendly country, and therefore, any time we see dangerous things in a friendly country, we are not only sorry but also worried,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told Indian journalists here in response to questions.
The prince said it was the duty of all political leaders in Pakistan to unite to “see that extremism does not find its way to achieving gain in that country. It can only happen if political leadership in Pakistan is united. We hope that it will be achieved.”
‘Ties with Taliban severed’
To a query on the increasing threat posed to regional and global security by the coming together of the al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the prince reiterated that his country had severed its relationship with the Taliban ever since it began giving sanctuary to the al-Qaeda.
“There is no relationship between the Taliban and Saudi Arabia. It was abrogated between the two sides because the Taliban gave sanctuary to al-Qaeda. This indicates the seriousness that we give to this issue,” said Prince Al-Faisal, who has been steering the Kingdom’s foreign policy as Foreign Affairs Minister since 1975.
It was his spontaneous decision to meet the Indian journalists accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to Saudi Arabia. Soon after meeting Dr. Singh at the King Saud Palace, the prince spared time to make brief remarks and take a couple of questions. His keen observations were testimony to the fact that relations between India and Saudi Arabia were ready to move to another level.
Describing his meeting with Dr. Singh as “very pleasant,” he said that both countries were moving towards forging a strategic cooperation.
“It is not a small thing to talk about strategic relations. In order to do that you have to have clear understanding of common issues and confidence that together you can achieve what is good for our people, peace and well-being of our region. I think we are clear and we are moving in the right direction,” the prince said.
On increasing India’s quota of Haj pilgrims, he said the acute shortage of space allowed only a limited number of Haj pilgrims every year. However, he hoped that the situation would improve over the next few years and called for giving preference to those who had not performed Haj.
The prince had visited India after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to offer condolences to the Indian people.
His parting shot came as a pleasant surprise to the journalists. “Why don’t you people come here without political leaders? All your organisations are well known here. Namaste,” he said.