In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Nozar Shafiei stated that given the recent developments with regard to the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s criticism of those positions, signs and symptoms that indicate coolness of Pakistan-Arab relations are far more than signs that indicate the warmth of relations. The present atmosphere in Pakistan’s relations with Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, especially with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is cold, dark and cloudy.
Coolness of Pakistan’s Relations with Arab States of the Persian Gulf
Saying that this issue is being felt in the current situation, he noted how stable and fundamental this coolness of relations would be, is debatable. Pakistan and Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have traditionally had close relationship for cultural, political and economic reasons. In the political-security sphere, due to Pakistan’s conflict with India over Kashmir, it has always needed support of the Islamic world, including the Arab countries, and this issue has caused Pakistan to extend a hand of friendship to those countries.
Referring to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to maintain its influence in Pakistan and effective historical and economic roots in the close relations between the two countries, he said: There are three powerful forces of parties, religious movements and the military in Pakistan, which Saudi Arabia has infiltrated in all three cases and this influence is particularly significant in the religious spectrum. Therefore, they are also effective in improving relations between Pakistan and Arab countries.
The university professor pointed to Pakistan’s frustration over failure in holding the special meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and ignoring the Kashmir issue, and added: Pakistan expects the Islamic world to deal with the Kashmir issue like the Palestinian issue, which these positions have not been applied by the Islamic world. Therefore, Islamabad blames some of these faults on Saudi Arabia because they expect more from Saudi Arabia as the head of the Organization.
Noting that Pakistan’s issues in its relations with most countries are numerous and intertwined and that it is difficult to weigh them, Shafiei said Arab countries are also critical of Imran Khan’s government for the type of its relations with Iran. In addition, they believe that if they are to support Pakistan’s position in Kashmir, they expect Pakistan to support the position of Chinese Muslims; a position that is not adopted by the Pakistani authorities.
Pakistan’s Effort to Play an Active Role in the Region
The analyst of the Asian affairs pointed to the efforts of Imran Khan’s government to develop its relations with the countries of the region and play an active role in reducing some of the tensions in line with the national interests of that country and changing its regional position and said: Pakistan is in a very difficult condition. It is trying to strike a balance between its relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and even its relations with Kuwait, China, Afghanistan, Russia and the US, as well as with its internal forces. It is very difficult to strike such a balance.
The international relations professor further remarked: Pakistan should pursue a policy that, while having relations with Saudi Arabia, can also maintain its relations with Iran. While having relations with China, it should not lose its relations with the US. This is also true about its relations with Russia and the US. Therefore the country has very complex considerations, and sometimes the imbalance in such relationships creates the impression that Pakistan has lost one side.
Shafiei said: Pakistani politicians, like ropewalkers, should be able to maintain balance in their relations with various factions and this is a difficult task.
He also referred to some analyzes on Pakistan’s efforts to replace China in its foreign policy and shrink its relations with Saudi Arabia and said: The relationship between China and Pakistan is not a relationship of today and is as old as the life of Pakistan’s independence. The main reason for it is the existence of a common enemy called India. It is for this reason that China has defensive and military relations with North Korea and Pakistan. Although many aspects of Pakistan-China agreement are hidden, it can be assumed that India’s attack on Pakistan will be equivalent to India’s attack on China.
China to Replace America in Future Bipolar World
Referring to the policies of Imran Khan’s government in its foreign relations and maintenance of the country’s independence against the US pressures and Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, Shafiei said: If the world of the future moves towards bipolarity, to the extent that China and the US become two opposite poles; undoubtedly, Pakistan will have one of the closest relations with China.
He added: Pakistan’s policy towards China has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. In other words, Pakistan does not seem to seek to remove Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states from its relations, or Pakistan’s strategic priorities will no longer be the Persian Gulf Arab states, but when we talk about China, the argument is that Pakistan’s relationship with China replaces relations with the US. Because both countries have problems with India and both have territorial and border disputes with India and their treaty has been shaped on the basis of other relations.
Sinusoidal Future of Pakistan’s Relations with Persian Gulf Arab States
The university professor described the relations between Pakistan and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf as sinusoidal and said: Their relations will exist but with fluctuations. Because today relationships are dynamic and fluid and have ups and downs and follow the so-called “elusive balance” pattern. Thus, Pakistani officials are trying to maintain a balance of distance and closeness in their relations with Saudi Arabia.
Shafiei meanwhile stressed that Pakistan’s relations with some Arab countries are stable, but it seems that those relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have more fluctuations, but overall, in terms of how the future unfolds it should be said that no standard deviation will develop in the relations.