ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif is said to have discussed with the Saudi authorities the generalities of a joint military exercise that may take place this year, during his maiden official visit to Saudi Arabia concluded Friday.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s joint military exercise SAMSAM-IV was last held in September-October 2011 whereas the joint naval exercise was held in January last year.
“The selection of name, time and place for the military exercise is under consideration. As of now, both sides have agreed to conduct combined military manoeuvres in the ongoing year,” said an intelligence insider requesting not to be named. He said the army chief discussed the issue during his meetings with the Saudi Armed Forces chief General Hussain Bin Abdullah Al Qubayyal and Saudi army chief Lieutenant General Eid Bin Awadh Al Shalwi on Wednesday.
Whether the military exercise would be in sequel to SAMSAM exercises or it would be held under a separate name, also remains to be decided, the source added.
Started Tuesday night, Gen Raheel Sharif’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia took place amid the reports that Saudi Arabia was acting as a mediator between the government and security establishment for Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf’s ‘safe’ exit from Pakistan to skip the treason trial. The COAS visit, his first ever since assuming the incumbent charge, concluded yesterday (Friday) which conspicuously coincided with an all important hearing in a Special Court here against Musharraf regarding the treason trial. The court had recently issued the former dictator’s bailable arrest warrants for not appearing before the court despite being ordered to, and had fixed February 7 the date for hearing the related case. The Special Court has warned that Musharraf’s non-bail-able arrests warrants would be issued should he refuse to appear before the court on February 18.
However, the intelligence official insists, Raheel Sharif’s visit was planned in December’s first week as part of his official commitments soon after Sharif took over as army chief last November 29.
The Saudi Embassy’s Spokesman in Islamabad Baddar Alotaibi on Thursday expressed inability to comment on Saudi Arabia’s presumed role in Musharraf’s treason trial issue. On military cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, he said, without getting into the specifications, both the states have initiated a host of bilateral projects in defence and strategic sectors. “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy brotherly relations and are cooperating in different areas of mutual interests,” he told this correspondent in a brief telephonic conversation Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Pakistan’s military had said, Gen Raheel Sharif was conferred King Abdul Aziz Medal of Excellence. He also held separate meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Rahman Bin Ali Al Rubaian and Saudi armed forces and military chiefs. These meetings, according to a press release, focused on defence and security cooperation, regional stability and steps towards strengthening bonds between the two countries.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, the source said, deliberations are also under way for joint military exercises with China and Turkey in the ongoing year. Pak-Turk Joint Training Exercise Attaturk-VII was held in September 2011 and Sino-Pak Joint Military Exercise YOUYI-IV was held in Pakistan in November 2011.