The Pakistani seesaw

I took an interest 2 days ago when the news of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia came across the screen. Yet that is not the part that got to me, it felt like an element, not the main beef and I was proven right with ‘Pakistan’s balancing act may be failing’ (at https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/pakistan-balancing-act-failing-200828164701825.html), which gives us in the by-line “Pakistan’s strategy to keep good relations with everyone is no longer working in an increasingly polarised Muslim world”, that makes sense, polarisation is found almost everywhere. Pakistan is in an almost impossible situation, I want to blame Pakistan for their own situation and I would likely be right, but there is no real evidence of it, merely a long line of political choices that Pakistan went with and that makes sense from a Pakistani point of view. Yet we are also given “Qureshi said Islamabad expects the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene a meeting on Kashmir. Otherwise, he said, Pakistan would be “compelled” to “call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir”. Qureshi’s comments have widely been viewed as a veiled threat to create a new bloc that would rival the Saudi-dominated OIC”, Saudi Arabia responded and it was not good for Pakistan, but they did this to themselves. From my (limited) point of view, we need to acknowledge that Kashmir is a much larger issue and it makes sense for Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations to not rush to conclusions ahead of time, because it either leads to the alienation of Pakistan or India and I reckon that the Islamic countries do not want to alienate an optional consumer base of 1.3 billion people. This does not mean that the Islamic nations are against the Pakistani stance in the Kashmir region, but that situation is a lot larger than we imagine, no matter how we turn it, it is either an Indian choice or a Pakistani choice, yet I wonder what the Kashmiri choice is, the media tends to report little on that (or so it seems to me). 

So when we get to “Soon after General Bajwa landed in Pakistan, Qureshi left for China, sending a clear message to the kingdom that Islamabad is diversifying its alliances and re-evaluating the value of its strategic partnership with Riyadh”, we see that Pakistani wants options, it felt threatened by the pressure on Saudi Arabia that backfired, and in this China was not a solution, merely a trade opportunity as long as China allowed for it, because China has too much to gain from deals with India, they too see 1.3 billion consumers and China wants them, 221 million Pakistani does not add up, especially as the poverty line in Pakistan is 25%, India is at 22%, but with a population base that is almost 6 times larger, China sees a larger interest in India, which doesn’t help Pakistan much. 

There is more, the article also gives us “Today, Saudi Arabia has several reasons to value its deepening partnership with India more than its historic ties to Pakistan. While the annual trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia stands at around $3.6bn, Saudi-India bilateral trade is worth more than $30bn. This trade differential partially explains, despite persistent Pakistani requests, why Riyadh has avoided raising the Kashmir issue beyond mere tokenism. Unlike Pakistan, Saudis do not take a zero-sum view of their growing economic cooperation with India. In fact, economic overtures towards India are part of MBS’s post-oil economic diversification efforts”, it is like I stated, India is increasingly important, the diversification efforts are increasing in Riyadh and that is seen all over the globe and China is part of that, all whilst India is already a larger part of it. You do not toss overboard 900% of trade so settle one issue, an issue that is increasingly difficult to set, one might argue that both Saudi Arabia and China might prosper even more if Kashmir became an independent nation. 

Whatever happens next, Pakistan has a much larger issue in play, if we are to believe Al Jazeera with “Pakistan’s criticism of Saudi-led Muslim bloc OIC for its inaction on the Kashmir issue has threatened their ties” (at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/pakistan-saudi-rift-happened-200827175219872.html), where we see “Pakistan accused the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 57 Muslim-majority countries that is led by Saudi Arabia, of inaction over the Kashmir issue – a key policy issue for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan”, there is of course the idea to get all 57 views on Kashmir, but that is merely me considering the larger field. 

So in all this, the larger Seesaw is not Pakistan on one side and Kashmir on the other side, it is a stage where we see the needs of Pakistan one one side and the other side we see the needs of either Saudi Arabia or China, with Kashmir at the centre setting the stage of balance, optionally their inaction. Pakistan is not in a good place and it will get worse, as they alienate more Islamic nations, we will become witness of some sort of isolation of Pakistan, that might not be the best diagnosis, but it is the best I can do for now. No matter how I phrase it, it seems to me that the setting in the Middle East will partially be represented by the views of the OIC and their views towards Kashmir might be more important than we realise. 

 

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