Weakness, not loyalty
We are once again at the point where our country is not just facing internal rife but on the diplomatic front, it is being bombarded with bad news. Prime Minister Imran Khan reached Saudi Arabia for an emergency meeting and then declined to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit he had previously agreed to show up at. Much has been speculated about what happened during the visit to the Kingdom, but in the absence of an official statement, Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s statement at the Summit was accepted as fact by observers. His statement also became the reason for Pakistan’s humiliation at the global stage.
Talking to Turkish media, Erdogan said, “Unfortunately we have seen that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan.” He also alleged that Saudi Arabia had threatened not only to withdraw the money it had deposited in Pakistan’s central bank but also to expel Pakistani workers from the country and reemploy Bangladeshis instead.
Erdogan voiced clearly and with authority that which has always been whispered in Pakistan. It is difficult to imagine that any denial from the Foreign office will now be given credence. The bargaining power of Arab oil on Pakistan was evident once before when United Arab Emirate Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash allegedly referred to Pakistan as a “parasitic nation” but back then, Pakistanis did not much mind the insult, given that they had just chosen to walk off from participating in Yemen’s pointless war. Gargash’s statement seemed nothing more than helpless anger.
But the Turkish president’s statement is an entirely different ball game. We have always been the first to defend Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and yet we find ourselves in the position where we are threatened with expulsion of our laborers.
And what about the people who proudly pointed towards Saudia’s deposit in the State Bank of Pakistan, and Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s statement in Islamabad that he is Pakistan’s ambassador? Will those people explain to us now how did these gifts become weaknesses?
Imran Khan’s political ideal, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad, has been reluctant to speak about Pakistan’s predicament. But Malaysian Foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah cautiously discussed the issue during the Summit. “Whenever Malaysia organizes a summit, some people try to divide the Muslim Ummah,” he told reporters.
So what did Pakistan win or lose by not participating due to Saudi pressure, and what did Saudia win or lose? One theory says that the desert kingdom considers this summit a threat to its regional dominance as it is attended by two of its bitter most rivals, Qatar and Iran. After two years of failed attempts to isolate Qatar, Saudi extended the hand of friendship to its neighboring country but Qatar now wants to resume relations at its own terms.
When gulf countries decided to boycott Qatar, it found allies in Turkey, and Saudia’s nemesis, Iran. Thus a new triangle was born which Saudia Arabia considers a danger to its own interests. The state of the unending war on Yemen is also blamed on Iran. Monetary loss of attacks on oil installations will easily be compensated, but now the world knows how safe is Saudi oil and its supply route. Add to that the humiliation meted out by the Turkish President in the case of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder; a slight that an Arab prince might not forget.
Did the two billion dollars that Saudi Arabia deposited in the State Bank cause us to become so grateful that we forgot about Turkey and Malaysia’s positive stance on the Kashmir issue? Have we forgotten who did not stand by us in the FATF issue, thus ensuring our continued economic dependence? Having angered America, Pakistan was in the position to form a new alliance with Turkey and Russia but now, after disappointing Turkey, how does Pakistan escape American blackmail? The Kingdom uses America to force us into positions which do not give us long-lasting results.
It is often speculated that America uses Saudi Arabia to pressurize the Taliban in Afghanistan, and in turn, Saudia pressurizes Pakistan. But even if a deal with the Taliban does not come through, America will leave Afghanistan, just like it left Syria without striking any deal. This will create trouble for Pakistan, because the current lot of neighboring rulers prefer friendly ties with India. Add to that the fact that Afghan Taliban are no longer completely under Pakistan’s influence, in fact China and Iran have made inroads into the Taliban camp. Finally, America has made India its strategic partner.
In such conditions, a weak foreign policy and economic black mailing may well prove to be dangerous for us.
Before coming into power, Imran Khan would preach about self-respect, although now what his foreign affairs advisors and officers advise him is a different story. To defeat European and American blackmail, at the KL summit Iran, Malaysia and Turkey talked of a unified insurance system, banking system and currency.
Turkey’s absolute rejection of American sanctions is one example that the world could follow. America objected to Turkey buying a missile system from Russia, but its reservations were not paid any heed. American congress is screaming out its frustration but President Donald Trump is not much interested in giving attention to the matter.
So what is the way forward? Presenting our point of view to the world whilst safeguarding our economic and political interests. The concept of brotherly country is now an outdated one. Relations between states are formed on bilateral interests.
The word loyalty does not exist in diplomatic languages. But the word weakness, does.