Amid an increasingly more polarised Muslim world, Pakistan’s strategy to deal with diplomatic ties with countries in the Middle East is no longer working.
In a break from the past where the Gulf countries balanced their relations with Pakistan and India, they’re now seen moving towards New Delhi and distancing from Islamabad, according to a outline in the Al Jazeera.
Pakistan, then again, is seen moving closer to Turkey and Malaysia – two countries that Saudi Arabia sees as challengers to its stronghold inside the Muslim world, according to foreign policy analysts Abdul Basit and Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed writing in the Al Jazeera.
The relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, went haywire final month when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi openly rebuked the kingdom for its lack of reinforce for Islamabad’s interests on the Kashmir issue.
All the way through a television talk-show, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi made a remark that irked the Saudi “big brother”, where he said that Pakistan would be “compelled” to “call a assembly of the Islamic countries that are in a position to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir.”
In Basit and Shahab Ahmed’s article, the observation by Pakistani Foreign Minister used to be not taken polite by Riyadh and used to be seen as a veiled threat to concoct a new side against the Saudi-dominated Association of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
In retaliation, the kingdom used to be quick to request the sudden repayment of a billion-dollar loan extended to Pakistan in November 2018, which used to be renegotiated just six months ago. But even so this, it also refused to resume a deferred oil payments scheme that used to be a part of the same loan which used to be provided to Islamabad when the country used to be trying to keep away from a conceivable sovereign default.
After Riyadh raised the bar, Pakistan used to be forced on a back foot. Thereafter, Qureshi, trying to save face, refuted reports that ties have strained between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia up to now few weeks. “The kingdom has neither asked Islamabad to go back its loan nor has it suspended oil provide to Pakistan,” Qureshi used to be quoted as saying by The News International.
Because of Qureshi’s backtracking, Pakistani journalists slammed the Foreign Minister saying it contradicted the comments he made earlier.
Soon after, Pakistan went into damage-control mode and had to send Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Riyadh. On the other hand, the visit turned out be futile as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) did not meet Bajwa, and they were left to meet with Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
According to the Al Jazeera outline, “the newest diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan must be seen in the broader context of recent strategic realignments in the Middle East and the Muslim world.”
“For some time, Pakistan has been struggling to retain to its traditional policy of maintaining impartial relations with rival Muslim powers. While Islamabad is concerned approximately the deepening strategic and economic cooperation between its arch-rival India and a group of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is equally frustrated by Pakistan’s overtures towards Muslim-majority states it views as hostile, such as Turkey, Malaysia and Qatar,” it said.
The Gulf countries are now visibly seen moving towards India and distancing from Pakistan. The tides are turning in India’s favour. One such example is MBS’s February 2019 visit of South Asia.
All the way through his tour, the Saudi Crown Prince made the unprecedented move of visiting India directly after Pakistan. After signing agreements worth USD 20 billion with Pakistan, MBS said he expects Riyadh’s investments in India “to exceed USD 100 billion in the coming two years”.
Saudi Arabia isn’t the only one. After India’s August 2019 move to revoke article 370, Pakistan called Arab states to bring their voices. On the other hand, its Gulf partners including Saudi Arabia failed to put a front against India. Riyadh even told India that it understands “India’s approach and actions in Jammu and Kashmir”.
Amid the strategic readjustment in the Middle East, political analysts say that relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is bound to receive bumpy as apparently that the former will continue to move closer to New Delhi. Islamabad, then again, should keep its partnerships with several countries in the Middle East and return to Saudi Arabia’s sphere.