National attention is now primarily focused on meeting the security challenges posed by China. India, however, has long faced a “two front” threat, posed by Pakistan and China. The two countries have also worked together in countries such as the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar to undermine India’s relations with these neighboring countries.
There have been several examples of cooperation between Pakistan and China in the past. Most notably with Myanmar, which has long depended on Chinese aid for arms supplies. Pakistan is now seeking to supplement Chinese military assistance to Myanmar, by offering to provide Chinese-designed JF-17 fighters, in production, to Myanmar. But such cooperation by Pakistan in commercial terms has limited use unless it is reinforced by the political, economic and strategic weight of donors, which Pakistan lacks.
The main problem for Pakistan, which makes it unable to contribute to economic projects abroad, is a growing and growing deficit in its balance of payments. This requires frequent interventions from the IMF and from oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. The drawbacks of the Pakistani economy include a relatively small savings and investment rate, making it unable to raise funds for economic growth and development.
In addition, Pakistan’s exports decreased from the already insufficient $ 22.46 billion to $ 20.94 billion last year. This imbalance in foreign exchange rates, coupled with inadequate investment inflows, inevitably results in relatively low levels of investment and growth. This, in turn, led to the need for coins from oil-rich Arab countries.
During his search for greater support for India from Islamic countries, Imran Khan made a serious mistake, supporting proposals to form a new Islamic grouping. The proposal was initiated by the ambitious Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the 90-year-old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In his rush to win prizes for uniting the Islamic world, Imran Khan forgot about the old rivalries and animosities between Turkey and the Arab world, and especially Saudi Arabia. The angry Crown Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia made no secret of his displeasure at Pakistan’s wrongdoing. Prime Minister Imran Khan had no choice but to send Army Commander General Bajwa to Saudi Arabia, to reaffirm Pakistan’s high respect and respect for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As a manifestation of Saudi displeasure, Bajwa was unable to meet Crown Prince Salman. The highest-ranking official he met in Riyadh, when he went to explain Pakistan’s position, was Deputy Minister of Defense of the Kingdom. Meanwhile, there are indications that the Saudi Government is in contact with the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is now in virtual exile in London.
Sharif faces charges of financial irregularities leveled by Imran Khan’s Government. The Saudi monarchy has upheld the Sharif family for more than four decades now. Under Saudi pressure, Musharraf was forced to exile Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, after he arrested and fabricated serious charges against Sharif. Imran’s revenge against Sharif will only further worsen his relations with the Saudi Kingdom and its allies, in the Arab world.
The wrong partnership
Pakistan also has to pay dearly when it turns to countries like Turkey and Malaysia to promote its interests in the Islamic world. Despite protests against its love of Islamic countries, Pakistan has found that its ambition to undermine India has been negatively affected, with a number of Islamic countries choosing to support India in multilateral forums. Pakistan now realizes that it cannot significantly undermine India’s interests even in its own South Asian environment.
Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan, driven primarily by its desire to ensure that the Taliban return to rule Afghanistan, is unchallenged. The ISI can then return to using land ruled by the Taliban previously, to base anti-Indian terrorist groups such as Harkat ul Mujahidin, as it has done in the past. Given Afghanistan’s ethnic composition, however, Taliban rule will widen ethnic divisions. This will not be accepted by Afghanistan’s neighbors in Central Asia, as it will have a negative impact on stability in the entire region.
In an unprecedented manner, the UAE invited India as guest of honor to a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the 43-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Abu Dhabi, last year. Imran Khan strongly rejected the UAE decision, and withdrew Pakistan’s participation in the Conference.
The UAE made it clear that they have no intention of satisfying Imran Khan’s wish of not inviting India to last year’s OIC summit. It went with an unprecedented gesture of inviting and honoring India’s Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, to address a meeting of 43 Islamic countries.
Sullen Imran Khan boycotted the summit, only further isolating himself and Pakistan in the Islamic world. Pakistan’s participation in the OIC meeting is now limited to causing trouble in Jammu and Kashmir. Nor has Imran’s personal love for Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan endeared him to leaders of the Arab world. He doesn’t seem to have read the history of the occupation of Arab lands, by the Turkish Ottoman rulers.
There has always been a question about whether Pakistan will intervene in the India-China conflict on their border. This question arises from the fact that China has built up Pakistan’s conventional military capability with a wide variety of weapons systems, from tanks and armored personnel carriers to combat aircraft and frigates. China has also increased Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability, with nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit targets ranging from Delhi to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
China is now poised to increase the capacity of Pakistan’s maritime navy, with a supply of frigates and submarines. In addition, China has become more supportive of Pakistan’s position in Jammu and Kashmir in the past. Pakistan, however, is unlikely to do anything military wrong now, especially given India’s current capabilities and close relations with the US and Russia.
The differences with Pakistan will continue. Channels of communication have remained open with Pakistan in the past, even amid tensions, when Atal Bihar Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh served as Prime Ministers. However, this practice may be difficult to sustain with an incompetent and opinionated Prime Minister like Imran Khan.
The author is a former
High Commissioner for Pakistan