By Umar Khalid Dar
Pakistan has always enjoyed cordial relations with countries in the Gulf. The country has helped the brotherly countries in developing their defense capabilities. But the Gulf countries have not shown any favors to Pakistan when compared with India. Pakistan always expected that Gulf countries should help Pakistan in her Kashmir cause but did not get it.
On the contrary, these countries are further cozying up their relationship with India.
Saudi Arabia had recently conferred the country’s highest civilian honor – the King Abdul Aziz Sash – to Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi as compared to ignoring, in a rather humiliating way, the Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Shareef during the recent Riyadh Summit.
Similarly, UAE has not only allowed Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi to address a large gathering of Indians in UAE, an occasion used by Mr. Modi to give a tacit message to Pakistan but also donated a large piece of land for the construction of a Mandir in UAE. Same UAE, on the other side, had been warning Pakistan of dire consequences if Pakistan does not support them in the war against Yemen and threatening that Pakistan should be ready to pay the ‘heavy price for ambiguous stand’.
Though Saudi Arabia and UAE has strong financial leverage over Pakistan, as around 2 million Pakistanis are living in Saudi Arabia and 1.2 million in UAE and billions of dollars in bilateral trade, nonetheless, above mentioned “threatening gestures” by “brotherly Muslim Countries” should make Pakistan think twice before supporting them in their regional hegemony ambitions.
I must appreciate the Pakistani leadership that they had played smartly and had refused to take sides in the Gulf crisis. At the same time had assured Saudi Arabia that it will guarantee its territorial integrity in case of an external threat especially to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, which at that moment was non-existent.
Similarly, Pakistan did not contribute any troops in the military alliance formed by Saudi Arabia “to fight terrorism in the region”. Although the experts argued that the aim of the alliance is anti-Iran and that was further clarified by the USA PresidentDonald Trump in his speech made at the Riyadh Summit. Therefore, Pakistan’s move was intelligent as she could not afford to hamper relations with Iran due to various geopolitical, economic and religious factors.
Pakistan did appoint General Raheel Shareef as the head of the military alliance on the pretext that it will not be used against Iran but since the official anti-Iran posture declared during Riyadh Summit, rumors of him returning to Pakistan are circulating in the media; that would be a step in the right direction.
The latest diplomatic conundrum, involving Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severing ties with Qatar for allegedly funding terrorist organizations, which Qatar denies vehemently, have entered the 3rd week with no sign of abetting. Pakistan again seems to be caught up in the middle as reportedly Saudi Arabia is asking Islamabad to pick between Riyadh and Doha.
Difficult, if not impossible, a proposition for Pakistan to adopt.
Geopolitics of the area is seeing a paradigm shift as Iran and Turkey have openly supported Qatar with sending food supplies and deploying troops respectively. With the USA coming in support of Saudi Arabia and Russia on the other side, the area is bound to see another chapter of the cold war. The Muslim resources will be used to finance the military–industrial complex in the two superpowers and Muslim world will be in total loss. (USA-Saudi arms deal of $ 110 Billion and USA-Qatar arms deals of $12 Billion are the point in case)
The other two countries that will benefit from this Saudi-Qatari standoff are Israel and India. As the Muslim world is divided into Sunni-Shia and now further Sunni-Sunni factions, Tel Aviv and Delhi will find an opportunity in the crisis and will further push the Palestine and Kashmir issue to the back burner.
The Gulf crisis, however, poses a great diplomatic challenge to Pakistan. As Pakistan enjoys friendly and stable ties with all sides from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and from Turkey to Iran, Pakistan has precisely the kind of credentials that she can act as a mediator to help rescue the Middle East region from a great impending disaster. Pakistan, if remains successful in diffusing tensions between Gulf countries, will increase its international diplomatic standing that can be further used to resolve not only the internal conflicts in the Muslim world but also involving outside world. I have few suggestions that I think should be followed by Pakistan to achieve this goal:-
Foremost, Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Saudi-Qatar conflict so as to be able to play a diplomatic role to end the crisis. Finally, both sides will need someone they can trust and Pakistan can play that role. Meanwhile, Pakistan should seek the Gulf countries support for its Kashmir cause in return for any material support from Pakistan like contributing troops for the military alliance. (Of course with the condition that it will not be used against any brotherly country like Iran).
Secondly, there is a need to reactivate and strengthen the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The fully active OIC can play an active role in resolving internal disputes of the Muslim world. Moreover, OIC members have a combined GDP of around USD 10 Trillion and if combined together their strength would be felt around the world and Muslim Ummah’s problems like that of Palestine and Kashmir can also be resolved from that platform.
—The author is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org