ISLAMABAD  - Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif left here on Tuesday for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on a three-day official visit at the invitation of Saudi authorities. This is the first foreign visit of the Army Chief since assumption of his office.

According to ISPR press release, during the visit, the COAS will call on senior political and military leadership. The interaction will encompass the Pak-Saudi relations with particular emphasis on defence and security cooperation. Earlier, senior military officials saw off the COAS at Nur Khan Air Base.

According to defence and diplomatic sources, the visit is in the backdrop of the recent high profile visits from Saudi Arabia including Foreign Minister Prince Saud-Al Faisal followed by the visit of the Deputy Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia.

According to the defence sources, the visit of the Chief of Army Staff to Saudi Arabia would help deepen bilateral cooperation in the field of defence between the two countries.

The sources said that Saudi authorities have shown keenness to enhance defence cooperation between the two including investment in Pakistan’s defence production sector.

Also, the Chief of Army Staff would avail the opportunity to exchange views with Saudi civil and military leadership about the regional geo-political developments including drawdown of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the sources further said that the Iran-Saudi ties might also come under discussion in view of the recent developments.

Informed sources further said that fate of former Chief of Army Staff General (retd) Pervez Musharraf may also come under discussion. This, the sources said, is in the backdrop of the exile deal General Musharraf had offered to the incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in late 90s.

However, military sources categorically rejected these notions saying the Army Chief’s visit is entirely aimed at strengthening bilateral defence cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.