Modi’s Saudi visit & im­pact on Pak­istan

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Col M Hanif ( Retd) Email: han­i­f­sar­dar@ hot­mail. com

Ara­bia had hit a rough patch, due to Pak­istan not join­ing the Saudi led Arab coali­tion in the Ye­men crises.

Saudi Ara­bia may be still ap­pre­hen­sive whether Pak­istan joins the Saudi pro­posed new coali­tion of 34 Arab states against ter­ror­ism, due to the con­straint that it may neg­a­tively im­pact Pak­istan’s re­la­tions with Iran. In this con­text, the US scholar, Bruce Rei­del has also stated in his ar­ti­cle that Saudi Ara­bia’s ex­cel­lent wel­come given to Modi re­flects that Saudi Ara­bia wanted to in­di­cate to Pak­istan that it had other options also. But the dilemma for Pak­istan is that the Saudi lead­er­ship plans to deal with the im­pend­ing dan­gers to their se­cu­rity from ex­ter­nal ac­tors much away from its bor­ders, for which it wants Pak­istan to join the coali­tion im­me­di­ately.

In the above com­plex sce­nario, it ap­pears that options for Pak­istan are lim­ited. The safest op­tion to avoid join­ing the coali­tion is if Pak­istan is able to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Iran through me­di­a­tion, which re­quires in­tense diplo­matic ef­fort. But it is worth try­ing, may be through the as­sis­tance of China, hav­ing good re­la­tions with both Saudi Ara­bia and Iran. There is another op­tion that Pak­istan should con­vince Saudi Ara­bia to ac­cept its guar­an­tee of de­fend­ing its ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, but Pak­istan should not be asked to join the coali­tion forces. How­ever, If Pak­istan does not suc­ceed in these two ef­forts, then, it looks more ap­pro­pri­ate if it joins the Arab coali­tion, since this op­tion in­volves more ben­e­fits than dis­ad­van­tages.

As part of the coali­tion, Pak­istan will gain full sup­port of the Gulf coun­tries in mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion, on Kash­mir is­sue and will at­tract Gulf coun­tries’ in­vest­ments. In this case Iran will also like to have good re­la­tions with Pak­istan and might join the coali­tion to avoid its iso­la­tion in the re­gion.

In this sce­nario, the US may not op­pose Pak­istan join­ing the coali­tion and it may also soften up its pres­sures on Pak­istan from con­strain­ing its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Even China might like Pak­istan to join the coali­tion since it will fa­cil­i­tate its re­la­tions with the Gulf states. In this op­tion the only dis­ad­van­tage is that as part of the coali­tion, Pak­istan’s forces will have to share the re­spon­si­bil­ity of fight­ing the IS and other ter­ror­ists, for which these are well ex­pe­ri­enced. More­over, in this sce­nario the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment will have the full sup­port of its peo­ple, in view of their strong pro- Saudi Ara­bia sen­ti­ment.

In case Pak­istan does not join the coali­tion, then, al­though In­dia may also not join the coali­tion, it will ex­ploit the sit­u­a­tion to iso­late Pak­istan through care­fully planned strate­gic part­ner­ship and mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with the Gulf States by pro­vid­ing train­ing, mil­i­tary equip­ment and am­mu­ni­tion and start­ing joint de­fence pro­duc­tion projects. While Pak­istan might lose Gulf coun­tries’ sup­port on Kash­mir, it might as well miss the in­vest­ments, and also suf­fer from lack of for­eign re­mit­tances if our man­power is re­duced. In this sit­u­a­tion, even if we try to de­velop strate­gic part­ner­ship with Iran it will not hap­pen be­cause of both coun­tries’ dif­fer­ences over Afghanistan, In­dia’s close friend­ship with Iran and the US lean­ings to­wards Iran.

At best we can have good work­ing re­la­tions with Iran, which Iran would also like to have. In this sce­nario, Pak­istan gov­ern­ment also might not be able to win over the sup­port of its peo­ple, be­cause of their pro Saudi Ara­bia sen­ti­ment, due to their love for the Holy Mecca and Me­d­ina. In fact, in this sce­nario, Pak­istan will be­come iso­lated in the re­gion be­cause of In­dia and Iran’s co­op­er­a­tion on Afghanistan is­sue. In view of above, it is ad­vis­able for the gov­ern­ment to care­fully han­dle this com­plex for­eign pol­icy is­sue on time, to Pak­istan’s ad­van­tage. — The scholar works for the Is­lam­abad Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute, a think tank based in Is­lam­abad.

It ap­pears that options for Pak­istan are lim­ited. The safest op­tion to avoid join­ing the coali­tion is if Pak­istan is able to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Iran through me­di­a­tion, which re­quires in­tense diplo­matic ef­fort.

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