Pakistan is finding itself in a bind over the Kashmir issue. Islamabad has been trying vigorously for international attention over India’s decision to revoke the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi has made it abundantly clear that its decision was an internal matter. India has been successful in presenting its point of view. The Indian decision has been accepted in most world capitals.
Yet, Pakistan is not satisfied. It is now finding itself isolated even by its close allies. Last week, Pakistan Prime Minister and its Army Chief had invited the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. In classic diplomatic sense, all the two visiting Foreign Ministers did was; they gave a patient hearing to the Pakistanis.
Thereafter Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “We are hopeful that both countries will not disappoint us. The ministers of both countries have listened to our stance”.
There could not have been a blander statement. Nobody expected much. But, even Pakistani analysts felt it was nothing but a photo-op! Pakistan claims it has succeeded in engaging Saudi Arabia and UAE in its diplomatic offensive. However, the two important Arab states remained inscrutable, this suggests that Islamabad’s bargaining chips are down. The meeting has raised a storm of indignation in Pakistani media—but the media’s minders have been able to nip the issue.
Pakistan is itself to blame for its’ ill-advised move. It is a recipient of periodic bailouts from the rich Arab nations. Last year, Islamabad received about $6 billion from both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Saudis call Pakistanis living in the Kingdom as ‘miskeen’ (needy). This fact must not be lost. Whereas, Indian expatriates who make up a sizeable expatriate working force in most of the Gulf countries are known for their skills, education, foresight and technical knowledge. They are known to play an important role in the economic sphere of the countries they reside in.
In 2016, King Salman of Saudi Arabia conferred upon Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the King Abdulaziz Sash (the kingdom’s highest civilian award). Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salma has vowed to invest $100bn in India by 2021. Earlier this year he had promised to invest $20bn in Pakistan. This clearly demonstrates that Arab nations are keen on developing ties that benefits people and religion is not a factor in this. Trade relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is only $7.5 billion (2017-18) while India-Saudi trade in the same year was at $27.5 billion.
The UAE has shown even less concern to Pakistan. UAE’s Ambassador to India, Ahmad Al Banna, had defended India’s action as an internal administrative matter and a “step towards further stability and peace”. Weeks later, UAE awarded Prime Minister Modi with its highest civilian honour, ‘the Order of Zayed’. So dismayed was Pakistan, that it’s Senate (Upper House) Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani cancelled his visit to UAE.
While Pakistani commentators have criticized the actions of the oil rich Arab countries over their support to India, the people in the streets of Pakistan are asking their leaders and their army why it does not speak about the forced dispatch of Uighur Muslims to re-education camps in China. But, they know too well that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a life-line for the country. Pakistan does not even speak of the death and destruction in Yemen. Pakistan’s greed for military and civil aid had let it to serve others’ interests for many decades.
Analysts feel that energetic diplomacy might not bring dividends for Pakistan. The country would be foolhardy to expect much support from Muslim countries too. The Islamic countries have realised that Pakistan is only interested in harping the same tune. In seventy two years of its existence, it has not done anything to come out of its quagmire. While its neighbours have flourished, Islamabad continues to be a state that survives on external aid and is an exporter of terror. This has indeed dented its’ global standing. Its high time Pakistan figures this out and takes remedial actions.
Script: Kaushik Roy, Air: News Analyst