weeks, day after day, Pakistanis have been tearing their hearts out complaining
that the world has turned a deaf ear to India’s ‘forcible annexation’ of
Kashmir. They were shocked when some of Pakistan’s closest allies — including
the United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — appeared to either side
with India or stay silent. When PM Khan invited the foreign ministers of KSA
and UAE to “explain Pakistan’s position”, many hoped that things would be
reversed. So what happened?
it seems. The foreign ministers met with PM Khan and COAS Bajwa in Islamabad on
Wednesday. Thereafter FM Qureshi is reported to have said, “We are hopeful that
[both countries] will not disappoint us. The ministers of both countries have
listened to our stance”.
not have been a blander statement. No one expected much, but for all three
countries it was a good photo-op: Pakistan could claim it had succeeded in
engaging KSA and UAE in its promised diplomatic offensive. In turn, without
offending India, these two Arab states could be seen as relevant to the region.
But this visit will not calm the storm of indignation in Pakistan’s media —
unless the media’s minders put the brakes on.
explains the KSA/UAE tilt towards India? In TV talk shows and from columnists
one hears that ours is a dog-eat-dog world where countries care only about
markets and trade, not moral imperatives. No one cares about the poor. This
explanation is partly, but not wholly, true.
KSA/UAE perspective, Pakistan is indeed a supplicant for periodic bailouts.
Last year it received over $6 billion from each. Saudis lump Pakistanis with
other ‘Miskeen’ (needy) people from countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka,
Philippines, etc. The term ‘Rafiq’ (dear friend), says columnist Khaled
Ahmad, is reserved by Saudis only for white expats from Europe and America.
Indians presently do not qualify as rafiqs, but KSA might someday
consider a relook.
KSA and UAE
cannot call for self-determination in Kashmir for fear of consequences at home.
growing economic clout, the sophistication of its workforce, and KSA-India
cooperation in counterterrorism and military matters resulted in Pakistan’s
de-hyphenation from India more than a decade ago. In 2016, the Saudi king
personally conferred upon Narendra Modi the King Abdulaziz Sash (KSA’s highest
civilian award). Earlier recipients include Shinzo Abe, David Cameron, Barack
Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The list does not have any
recently, just after Kashmir went into lockdown, Crown Prince MBS vowed to
invest $100bn in India by 2021. Earlier this year he had promised to invest
$20bn in Pakistan. The differential recognises the different sizes of the two
economies. The latest available figures show Pak-Saudi trade in 2017-2018 at
$7.5bn while India-Saudi trade in the same year was $27.5bn. Remittances from
Pakistani workers in 2018 from KSA were $4.9bn; that from Indian workers were
even less concern than KSA by rubbing salt into Pakistan’s wounds. UAE’s
ambassador to India, Ahmad Al Banna, defended India’s action as an internal
administrative matter and a “step towards further stability and peace”. Then,
on Aug 24, UAE awarded Narendra Modi its highest civilian honour, the Order of
Zayed. This made Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani cancel his scheduled visit to
just because of India; here’s why it is unlikely that KSA and UAE would ever
support Pakistan on Kashmir. KSA is a monarchy run by the House of Saud while
UAE is an autocracy run by sheikhs from different Emirati tribes. One becomes a
ruler in KSA/UAE because of rank at birth, not by election or competence or any
other virtue. Therefore, people cannot be allowed to express their will,
advocating democracy is a punishable crime, and dissent is quashed well before
it can reach the streets.
imagine the consequences if KSA and UAE were to advocate the democratic rights
of Kashmiris? The very next question would be: what about elections and
democracy at home? KSA’s foreign minister was therefore as likely to demand
democracy or plebiscite in Kashmir as he was to revealing the whereabouts of
Jamal Khashoggi’s remnants.
ill-fated Arab Spring briefly threatened regional monarchies and dictatorships
but withered away long ago. As noted above, the man who helped to crush it in
Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is also a recipient of the Saudi Sash —
alongside Modi. All Gulf countries remain fearful of street demonstrations in
any shape or form. Protests for Kashmir in Bahrain after Eid prayers led to
We must not
conclude from this that KSA is uninterested in Kashmir. There appears to be a
new kind of religious proxy war in the making. KSA and Iran wish to foist their
respective brands of Islam onto Kashmiris; funds for mosques and madressahs and
preachers from these countries are going there.
supporting Kashmiris, national interests everywhere take primacy over all else.
The recent strong rebuke to India from Iran’s Supreme Leader was presumably to
bolster Iran’s standing with Kashmiri Shias — roughly 15 per cent of the
population — although it could also have been an expression of displeasure at
India’s de facto acquiescence to US-led sanctions on Iran.
Lest we be unjustly
harsh on countries hesitating to denounce India’s actions, let us admit that
Pakistan too compromises frequently on essential principles. Look at the facts:
to preserve CPEC it cannot speak about the forced dispatch of Uighur Muslims to
re-education camps; for fear of angering Saudis and Emiratis it dare not speak
of the death and destruction taking place in Yemen; and out of greed for
military and civil aid it has served America’s interests for many decades.
energetic diplomacy bring dividends to Pakistan? So far nothing supports this.
Of course, things could change if violence explodes in Kashmir after the
withdrawal of extra Indian troops, or if war seems to be around the corner.
Even then, no one expects much from Muslim countries. “The bubble of an Islamic
ummah has burst,” said former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani during a discussion
on Kashmir in the Senate last week. True enough, but why did it take Pakistan
so long to figure that out?
Hoodbhoy teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
Headline: Islamic Ummah has ditched Pakistan on Kashmir. Surprise it took us so
long to realise this
Source: The Print