NSA Ajit Doval blunts Pakistan PM offensive in Saudi, Imran Khan to head to China


New Delhi: As Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan preps for his third meeting this year with Chinese President Xi Jinping, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his United Arab Emirates counterpart as part of India’s effort to stay ahead on the diplomatic chessboard on Kashmir.

Imran Khan is travelling to Beijing next week on a three-day visit beginning October 8 that comes on the eve of President Xi’s informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tamil Nadu’s Mamallapuram on October 11-12. Imran Khan, who is said to be travelling for meetings to attract Chinese investment, is expected to meet President Xi who has been under intense domestic pressure over his perceived failure to contain protests and violence in Hong Kong and the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in western China. A top US diplomat had last week stung Pakistan over its silence on the plight of the estimated one million Uyghurs who were living in “horrific concentration-like conditions”.

NSA Doval’s trip comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled to Saudi Arabia to seek support for its attempt to internationalise India’s Kashmir move as well. Then, there is also the devastating drone attack on Aramco oil installations in Saudi Arabia last month that has flared tensions in the region and resulted in a sharp decline in OPEC’s oil production. Both Saudi Arabia and US have blamed Iran for the drone attack with India criticizing the attack without blaming anyone.

“This wasn’t a visit driven by a single agenda,” an Indian official said on the NSA’s two-nation visit. A wide range of issues were discussed on various aspects of bilateral relations at his meetings.India’s decision to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir also figured in the discussions.

At the end of Doval’s two-hour-long meeting, the official added, the Saudi Crown Prince expressed understanding about India’s approach and actions in Jammu and Kashmir, two people familiar with the development said.

Doval had spoken about India’s reasoning for the change in Jammu and Kashmir’s status and the communication restrictions, efforts from Pakistan to orchestrate violence and protests and the government’s step-by-step approach to lift these restrictions without loss of lives.

NSA Doval also held a string of meetings with Saudi NSA Musaid Al Aiban who chairs the Council of Political and Security affairs of Saudi Arabia. He is also Chairman of National Cyber Security Authority.

Later, Doval met his UAE counterpart Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed since the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed wasn’t available due to a bereavement in the royal family. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, the US-educated NSA of the federation of desert emirates, is the Crown Prince’s younger brother.

Ajit Doval’s trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is an important visit that highlights the “regular and ongoing close consultations at the highest levels” on issues of mutual interest and importance, people familiar with the development said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is under pressure from Rawalpindi military to engage West Asia and friendly nations like China, Turkey and Malaysia in its effort to mobilise pressure over Kashmir. It is understood that PM Khan frequently phones Saudi Crown Prince to seek support over Kashmir, a topic that is likely to figure prominently when he meets President Xi Jinping during his China visit. According to two top officials aware of the entire diplomatic play, Khan is expected to argue that India was eyeing Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which could impact Beijing’s CPEC corridor.


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