pub-9018797892728621
Qatar hugs and makes up with its warring neighbours

Qatar hugs and makes up with its warring neighbours

Gulf blockade: Qatar hugs and makes up with its warring neighbours – but will it last? wonders Mustafa Menshawy, Lancaster University, elaborating on a situation at one end of the MENA that lasted hardly more than three years, whereas the similar one at the other end of the region continues unabated for the last forty years. It is that of the ongoing North African situation, but that is another story. In the meantime, let us read Mustafa’s.


Shortly after four Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – imposed an embargo on Qatar in 2017, I flew into the country’s capital Doha. Hamad airport – usually buzzing with visitors from the Gulf countries (one of every four visitors to Qatar in 2015 came from Saudi Arabia) – was eerily quiet.

The four countries severed ties with Qatar in June 2017 after they accused Doha of supporting terrorism. They demanded the shutdown of Qatari news network Al Jazeera as well as calling on the country to downgrade its relations with Iran. Doha defiantly rejected the accusations and agreed to mediation from Kuwait and the US to end the standoff.

Qatar has estimated its losses from the blockade in the billions of dollars – citing factors such as “industrial-scale theft of content from its sports broadcaster BeIN by rival Saudi network BeoutQ and the manipulation of its currency by the four countries. So, when they agreed on January 5 to lift the embargo and restore diplomatic relations with Qatar, all sides were keenly anticipating any economic benefits the restored detente might bring.

Qatar may be the smallest of the Gulf states – but it’s the richest. So when, hours after the agreement, foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani talked about the possibility of the country’s sovereign wealth fund investing in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, his hint would have been well received in Riyadh.

Dangling the carrot of investment is a good way of appeasing Saudi Arabia, which is keen to attract foreign investment to back Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grandiose modernisation projects as well as respond to the country’s long-term need to secure new export markets and diversify its oil-dependent economy.

Fraternal relations

But the biggest sign of the new detente has so far been in the tone of Qatar’s news media. Top of the list of the 13 demands placed on Qatar by the four countries was shutting down Al Jazeera.

Qatar didn’t shut the network down – but watching the network in the days after the blockade ended, one could feel the difference. Bulletins no longer include regular news on “violations” by the Saudi regime. The channel even rebranded the Saudi Crown Prince, who it had vociferously attacked just a few weeks ago for “tarnishing the image of the Saudi state”. Now Bin Salman is represented as a rising peacemaker engaged in relations of “fraternity”. This was symbolically reflected in the way he hugged Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani when the Qatari emir arrived in Riyadh for their meeting on the sidelines of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Saudi Arabia on January 5.

Coverage of Qatar by Saudi network Al Arabiya has also softened considerably, something picked up on by the BBC, which even hosted analysts to comment of the repeatedly screened scene of the hugging between the two leaders. “It was a hot hugging”, commented one analyst, of the enthusiastic way the two leaders embraced when meeting at the airport in Riyadh.

The reconciliation has brought a sense of relief in all four countries. Ordinary people paid a deep humanitarian price – many are linked by close tribal ties and there are thousands of cases of cross-border intermarriage (to give you an idea of how close the Saudi Arabia and Qatar are, consider that it takes just an hour to drive from Doha to Saudi territory).

In Qatar, I heard many stories of families split apart when Qatari nationals were ordered to leave their three Gulf neighbours within 14 days. More than 12,000 residents in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE were also ordered to leave Qatar. Social media is now full of videos of families jubilantly crossing “Abu Samra”, the land border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar within hours of the agreement.

Happy talk

This may all sound like a return to normality, but sceptics pointed to the fact that, while the two feuding leaders talked of “brotherly unity” and desires for “Gulf unity”, neither mentioned an agreement on any of the issues that caused the crisis. On the one hand, everyone’s a winner – but, on the other, we don’t know how or why. The situation has been described as a “detente borne more of exhaustion than compromise”.

The 13 demands made by the other Gulf states of Qatar remain unmet. For example, the Qatari foreign minister has already scotched a demand for Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran by shutting down diplomatic posts in Iran or expelling members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, saying a couple of days after the agreement that his country would not alter relations with Tehran.

So this dispute is far from ended and there is a lot of tension brewing under the surface. Saudi Arabia, for its part, sees Iran as an “existential threat” and is unlikely to take no change as a negative answer.

Others believe that for Bin Salman, temporarily easing the tension with Qatar is “low-hanging fruit” – something achieved with relative ease ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US president. Biden is known for his critical attitude towards Riyadh’s approach to human rights.

There is no sign that Qatar is also heeding the other demands, including closing Turkey’s military base outside Doha. Turkey is popular among Qataris. You’ll see cars with number plate stickers featuring the Turkish flag – or even with the image of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

With so few issues apparently actually resolved, it’s little wonder that it took just days for new signs of tension to reappear after the agreement. The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said following the GCC summit that Doha still has questions to answer, including: “How is Qatar going to deal vis-à-vis interfering in our affairs through support of political Islam? Is Turkey’s presence in the Gulf going to be permanent?”

These are the same questions asked of Qatar long before the four countries issued their ultimatum in 2017. It’s tension that is likely to outlive the warmth engendered by those televised hugs.

Mustafa Menshawy, Postdoctoral Researcher in Middle East Politics, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

International Day for Tolerance

International Day for Tolerance

The International Day for Tolerance is an annual observance day declared by UNESCO in 1995 to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance. It is observed on 16 November.

International Day for Tolerance

“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.” UNESCO’s 1995 Declaration of Principles on Tolerance.

In 1996, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/95 proclaiming 16 November as International Day for Tolerance.

International Day for Tolerance

This action followed the adoption of a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance by UNESCO’s Member States on 16 November 1995. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.

In 1995, to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, UNESCO created a prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence. The creation of the Prize has been inspired by the ideals of UNESCO’s Constitution that proclaims that “peace, if it is not to fail, must be founded on the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”. The prize is awarded every two years on the International Day for Tolerance, 16 November. The Prize may be awarded to institutions, organizations or persons, who have contributed in a particularly meritorious and effective manner to tolerance and non-violence.

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL

International Day for Tolerance

“At a time when extremism and fanaticism are unleashed too often, at a time when the venom of hatred continues to poison a part of humanity, tolerance has never been more vital a virtue.”

 — Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
on the occasion of the International Day for Tolerance

Download the full message in PDF format
English ǀ Français ǀ Español ǀ Русский ǀ العربية ǀ 中文

WHAT DOES UNESCO FOR TOLERANCE

HOW CAN INTOLERANCE BE COUNTERED?

1. Fighting intolerance requires law:

Each Government is responsible for enforcing human rights laws, for banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities, whether these are committed by State officials, private organizations or individuals. The State must also ensure equal access to courts, human rights commissioners or ombudsmen, so that people do not take justice into their own hands and resort to violence to settle their disputes.

2. Fighting intolerance requires education:

Laws are necessary but not sufficient for countering intolerance in individual attitudes. Intolerance is very often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the other, other cultures, nations, religions. Intolerance is also closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride, whether personal, national or religious. These notions are taught and learned at an early age. Therefore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on educating more and better. Greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance and human rights, about other ways of life. Children should be encouraged at home and in school to be open-minded and curious.

Education is a life-long experience and does not begin or end in school. Endeavours to build tolerance through education will not succeed unless they reach all age groups, and take place everywhere: at home, in schools, in the workplace, in law-enforcement and legal training, and not least in entertainment and on the information highways.

3. Fighting intolerance requires access to information:

Intolerance is most dangerous when it is exploited to fulfil the political and territorial ambitions of an individual or groups of individuals. Hatemongers often begin by identifying the public’s tolerance threshold. They then develop fallacious arguments, lie with statistics and manipulate public opinion with misinformation and prejudice. The most efficient way to limit the influence of hatemongers is to develop policies that generate and promote press freedom and press pluralism, in order to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.

4. Fighting intolerance requires individual awareness:

Intolerance in a society is the sum-total of the intolerance of its individual members. Bigotry, stereotyping, stigmatizing, insults and racial jokes are examples of individual expressions of intolerance to which some people are subjected daily. Intolerance breeds intolerance. It leaves its victims in pursuit of revenge. In order to fight intolerance individuals should become aware of the link between their behavior and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence in society. Each one of us should begin by asking: am I a tolerant person? Do I stereotype people? Do I reject those who are different from me? Do I blame my problems on ‘them’?

5. Fighting intolerance requires local solutions:

Many people know that tomorrow’s problems will be increasingly global but few realize that solutions to global problems are mainly local, even individual. When confronted with an escalation of intolerance around us, we must not wait for governments and institutions to act alone. We are all part of the solution. We should not feel powerless for we actually posses an enormous capacity to wield power. Nonviolent action is a way of using that power-the power of people. The tools of nonviolent action-putting a group together to confront a problem, to organize a grassroots network, to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance, to discredit hateful propaganda-are available to all those who want to put an end to intolerance, violence and hatred.

International Day for Tolerance

RESOURCES

World Science Day for Peace and Development, 10 November

World Science Day for Peace and Development, 10 November

This year, the United Nations, at a time when the world is struggling with the global COVID-19 pandemic, says that 10 November, will be the focus of World Science Day for Peace and Development on “Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic.”

Established by UNESCO in 2002, the World Science Day for Peace and Development is an annual event that takes place on the 10th of November: all about STEM.

Electric cars line up at the official start of the Zero Emissions Race outside the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Switzerland.Electric cars line up at the official start of the Zero Emissions Race outside the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Switzerland.PHOTO:UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Celebrated every 10 November, World Science Day for Peace and Development highlights the significant role of science in society and the need to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues. It also underlines the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives.

By linking science more closely with society, World Science Day for Peace and Development aims to ensure that citizens are kept informed of developments in science. It also underscores the role scientists play in broadening our understanding of the remarkable, fragile planet we call home and in making our societies more sustainable.

The Day offers the opportunity to mobilize all actors around the topic of science for peace and development – from government officials to the media to school pupils. UNESCO strongly encourages all to join in celebrating World Science Day for Peace and Development by organizing your own event or activity on the day.

2020 Theme: Science for and with Society

This year, at a time when the world is struggling with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of World Science Day is on “Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic.”

Throughout this unprecedented health crisis, UNESCO, as the UN Agency with the field of science in its mandate, has endeavoured to bring science closer to society and to bolster the critically needed international scientific collaborations. From the science perspective, UNESCO’s response to COVID-19 is structured around three major pillars: promoting international scientific cooperation, ensuring access to wate,r and supporting ecological reconstruction.

To celebrate the 2020 World Science Day, UNESCO is organizing an online roundtable on the theme of “Science for and with Society in dealing with COVID-19.”

Join the conversation with the hashtags #ScienceDay.

World Science Day for Peace and Development, 10 November

COVID-19 response demands better use of science and technology

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires a far more collaborative relationship between scientists and policymakers, and the fruits of scientific research, including potential vaccines, must be shared universally. LEARN MORE!

Background

The organization of a focused event related to the commitment to science and society was one of the positive outcomes of the 1999 World Conference on Science in Budapest. It was considered an opportunity to reaffirm each year the commitment to attaining the goals proclaimed in the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and to follow up the recommendations of the Science Agenda: Framework for Action.

Since its proclamation by UNESCO in 2001, World Science Day for Peace and Development has generated many concrete projects, programmes and funding for science around the world. The Day has also helped foster cooperation between scientists living in regions marred by conflict – one example being the UNESCO-supported creation of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO).

The rationale of celebrating a World Science Day for Peace and Development has its roots in the importance of the role of science and scientists for sustainable societies and in the need to inform and involve citizens in science. In this sense, a World Science Day for Peace and Development offers an opportunity to show the general public the relevance of science in their lives and to engage them in discussions. Such a venture also brings a unique perspective to the global search for peace and development.

The first World Science Day for Peace and Development was celebrated worldwide on 10 November 2002 under UNESCO auspices. The celebration involved many partners, such as governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, UNESCO National Commissions, scientific and research institutions, professional associations, the media, science teachers and schools.

International Cooperation to Combat Trafficking and Terrorism

International Cooperation to Combat Trafficking and Terrorism

International cooperation to combat trafficking and terrorism, factors in destabilizing the MENA region by University professor, international expert Dr Abderrahmane MEBTOUL is given on the occasion of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s Maghreb tour in Tunis, Algiers and Rabat.

This visit is officially aimed at strengthening ties with these three North African countries to combat terrorist threats. This visit to Algiers follows that of the head of the US Africa Command (Africom) Army General Stephen Townsend. It is not an insignificant visit because the United States of America considers Algeria, through the actions of its armed forces and its various security services,  as a critical player in the stability of the Mediterranean and African region. This is because the stakes in the MENA region foreshadow significant geopolitical and geoeconomic reconfigurations. This region has become a sensitive area with significant rivalries between Russia, China and Europe.  

With recent geostrategic tensions, traffic has increased in particular with the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Mali, Niger and Libya. Transnational crime refers to organized criminal networks and consequently to terrorism that benefits from the sale of illegal goods. These international illicit markets, anonymous and more complex than ever, generate billions of dollars each year. This threat is worrying, not only for Algeria but also for the world and especially Europe. In the Sahel, armed groups have increased their capacity for nuisance, diversified into terrorists, insurgents, criminals and militias with a convergence that unites these groups. The most troubling aspect of the connection seems to be how the illegal drug trade undermines efforts to pursue the political reforms and development needed to stem the radicalization and rise of terrorist groups in several already fragile African countries. There is a deep vulnerability of states in the region characterized by poor governance and strong population growth. Only the Sahel, which will see its population double in 25 years, and has more than 100 million inhabitants by 2020. This growth affects human security, especially food security in the region as a whole. This is compounded by inequalities that promote radicalization, due to a combination of factors related to the individual, his relationships, his community and his relationship to society. Nevertheless, there are economic issues, where the Sahel is a space with critical departmental resources. Hence the foreign interference that manipulates different actors in order to position themselves within this strategic corridor and to take control of wealth are numerous. Libya, a wealthy country with a population of no more than 7 million, is an example where different foreign actors clash in interposed groups. The Sahelian arc is rich in resources: after salt and gold, oil and gas, iron, phosphate, copper, tin and uranium are all riches feeding the lusts of powers wishing to ensure control. The drug trade, for example, has the potential to provide terrorist groups with recruits and sympathizers among impoverished, neglected and isolated farmers who can not only cultivate on behalf of traffickers but also popularize and strengthen anti-government movements. More recently, with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, this situation of vulnerability is likely to increase. The world of tomorrow will never be the same again because of the geostrategic implications in the political, social, security and economic fields at the level of North Africa and Black Africa.  In an interview given to the American Herald Tribune of 23 April 2020, the author said: “We Have Witnessed a Veritable Planetary Hecatomb and the World Will Never Be the Same Again.”

In the face of these complex geostrategic situations at the regional level, international coordination is needed, including Maghreb integration, a bridge between Europe and Africa thus contributing to shared prosperity for the Mediterranean and African region to reduce migration flows.  (see two important works coordinated by Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul and Dr Camille Sari (from the Sorbonne) were published between 2014/2015 at Paris Edition Harmattan “The Maghreb facing geostrategic issues” – volume 1-dealing of institutions and governance (480 pages) and Volume 2 of the economic strands in different aspects (500 pages) bringing together for the first time -36 international experts, military-political scientists, economists, lawyers, sociologists, historians, Algerian-Moroccan- Tunisian- Mauritanian and Libyan- European).

Faced with these new geostrategic challenges that are upsetting the planet, international terrorism takes advantage of the dysfunctions of state regulation and has at least five characteristics in common. First,  on networks often established in large geographic areas where people, goods and money circulate. Second,  command control and communication. Third,  is their need to process large amounts of money, launder them and transfer them across countries and continents. Fourth, criminals and terrorists tend to have private armies, hence the need for training, camps and military equipment. Fifth,  terrorists and criminals in the Sahel region share common characteristics: frequent clandestine operations seeking legitimacy in supporting populations with the use of durable guerrillas to control territory and populations; sixth, contempt for international norms, the rule of law, or the notion of human rights, and a desire to kill those who oppose them; seventh,  these guerrillas also create specialized cells specializing in the use of the media and the Internet to disseminate their propaganda and their demands. Thus, we have different forms of transnational organized crime that is an ever-changing industry, adapts to markets and creates new forms of illicit trade that transcend cultural, social, linguistic and geographical boundaries, and knows no limits or rules.

The combination of these various elements in too complex patterns induces a climate of increasing insecurity conducive to the destabilization of the states of the region with different forms of trafficking numbering eight interdependentFirst,  the traffic of goods amplified for some countries that subsidize necessities such as Algeria, accentuated by distortions in exchange rates. Secondly,  the “black” market for weapons and their ammunition, necessarily derived from the “white” market since each weapon is manufactured in a legal factory, is a theme that allows us to understand the wills of power of various geopolitical actors around the world. Arms trafficking is regulated by states that profit from it and the advantage of arms trafficking for terrorists is that they can both use it and make a profit. The best prevention remains a sales control, a contractual framework, i.e. define beforehand the use of weapons and the establishment of international conventions on the sale of automatic or non-automatic firearms.  Thirdly,  the rise of drug trafficking at the regional level has implications for all of North Africa and Europe where we can identify actors with geostrategic implications where drug traffickers create new national and regional markets to transport their products. In order to secure the transit of their goods, drug traffickers resort to the protection that terrorist groups and various dissents can provide, by their perfect knowledge of the terrain, thus contributing to their financing.

Moreover, according to some intelligence sources, if drug traffickers were a country, their GDP would rank them 20th in the world.  Fourth,    human trafficking is an international criminal activity in which men, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation or exploitation through labour. Fifth, as we are currently seeing in the Mediterranean through migrant trafficking, which is an organized activity in which people are displaced around the world using criminal networks, many smugglers do not care whether migrants drown at sea, die of dehydration in a desert or suffocate in a container. Each year, this trade is valued at billions of dollars.  Sixth, the trafficking of natural resources which includes the smuggling of raw materials such as diamonds and rare metals (often from conflict zones) and the sale of fraudulent drugs that are potentially lethal to consumers. Seventh,   cybercrime,  which is linked to the revolution in information systems, can destabilize an entire country militarily, security and economically, encompassing several areas, including increasingly exploiting the Internet to take private data, access bank accounts and sometimes fraudulently obtain strategic data for the country. Digital technology has transformed just about every aspect of our lives, including the notion of risk and crime, so that criminal activity is more effective, less risky, more cost-effective and more accessible than ever. Eighth, money laundering is a process in which money earned by a crime or an illegal act is washed away. It is a matter of hiding the origin of the money to use it after legally (investment, purchases). The multiple tax-havens, clearing companies (also Off Shore) allow hiding the origin of the money.

This different traffic linked to the importance of the informal sphere produces malfunctions of the state apparatuses, in fact, governance, the weight of bureaucracy that maintains diffuse relations with this sphere and exchange rate distortions, representing in Africa according to the latest ILO-2020 report – more than 75/80% of employment and more than 20 50% of gross domestic product(GDP)  (Study of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul – French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) Paris December 2013- The informal sphere in Maghreb countries and its geostrategic impacts).   The main determinants of informality can be summarized as follows. First, the weakness of formal employment is obvious. This is a factor that explains the evolution of the informal sector in both developed and developing countries. As a result, the supply of formal jobs in the labour market can no longer absorb all the demand as the labour force; particularly the unskilled labour force is growing at an accelerated rate. Second, when taxes are numerous and too high, businesses are encouraged to hide some of their income. Third, the weight of regulation or the complexity of the business environment discourages business registration. Where the institutional framework is not conducive to the creation of businesses in a formal way, entrepreneurs prefer to operate in the informal sector and avoid the burden of regulation. Fourth, the quality of public services provided by the government is an important determinant of the informal sector because it influences the choice of individuals. Individuals active in the informal sector cannot benefit from public services (protection from theft and crime, access to financing, protection of property rights). That is one of the drawbacks of this sector. Fifth,  as a result of economic policy, the primacy of bureaucratic administrative management is required when transparent economic mechanisms refer to governance are required.

In short, Algeria’s security is at its borders; with Mali, 1376 km; with Libya 982 km; with Niger 956 km; with Tunisia 965 km as can be imagined not an easy task  It is because the reading of the threats and challenges facing the world and the region is based on the need to jointly develop a collective and effective response in a strategy on international terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime through drugs and money laundering. All safe for security has limitations that exist dialectical links between development and security. Also, the fight against terrorism implies, first of all, an internal development, linked to new governance of Africa, of regional sub-integrations where inter-African trade according to the UN only exceeds 16/17% in 2019, and to put an end to this inequality where a minority takes over a growing fraction of the national income giving birth to misery and therefore terrorism, referring to the morality of those running the show.  ademmebtoul@gmail.com

Navigating the Middle East as witnessed from Pakistan

Navigating the Middle East as witnessed from Pakistan

Navigating the Middle East as witnessed from Pakistan

THE NATION in its Navigating the Middle East as witnessed from Pakistan by Usama Shirazi is an eye-opener on the MENA region’s neighbourhood reciprocal relationship feelings towards it.

September 12, 2020

The Middle Eastern region has enormous importance in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Due to its geographical proximity and historical linkages, it has always been an area with paramount importance for Pakistan’s national interests. Besides a political, economic, and strategic convergence, this region offers cultural, religious, and historical theatres to determine Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities.

Unfortunately, throughout history, this region has been a centre of big power proxies exploiting its heterogeneous population by dividing them into tribes, sects, and religions. In the contemporary geopolitical environment, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)/Iran rivalry, intended for regional dominance, has made this region tumultuous and left Pakistan with little space to navigate. Pakistan shares strong bonds with both rivals and has its compulsions in dealing with them.

Even before the inception of Pakistan, the Muslims of the subcontinent had historical relations with all MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) countries. During the First World War, the Muslims started the Caliph movement to save and restore the ailing Ottoman caliphate. The MENA Region people also vehemently supported the Pakistan movement. The relations based on brotherhood continued after the independence of Pakistan. KSA and Iran supported Pakistan in times of every crisis whether these were wars with India or natural calamities.

In the contemporary setting, this region has bogged down in conflicts and chaos due to global and regional power politics. Ever since the Islamic revolution took place in Iran, the fissures between Iran and KSA have been widening. Now, this hostility came to a stage where a little spark may be turned into a conflagration. Pakistan’s relations with both regional powers are of paramount value. Iran shares a 959-kilometer border with Pakistan. Both countries are connected through various economic, trade, energy, and security, cultural and religious engagements. The recent Sino/Iran strategic deal would further create new avenues of cooperation. Iran is very important for Pakistan’s internal security due to the tumultuous population along both sides of its porous border.

On the other side, KSA also holds a special place in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan shares deep-rooted cultural, religious, economic, and strategic ties with Riyadh. Following the Iranian revolution and during the Afghan war, Pakistan’s relations with Tehran became sour which brought Islamabad and Riyadh closer and their strategic partnership became deeper. Riyadh played a key role in the economic development of Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s diaspora in KSA and its allied GCC countries is a major source of foreign remittances. This shows that both sides hold equal importance for Pakistan and tilting towards either side will alienate the other. Hence, Pakistan cannot afford it due to its internal security problems and the dwindling economy. In Pak/Iran and Pak/KSA relations, there exists a limited parity which demands a neutral foreign policy towards both.

In the Yemen crisis, Pakistani parliament passed resolutions to stay neutral as both KSA and Iran were involved in the conflict. The realist prism proposes that while choosing between two allies, you must go for the one where approximate parity is tilted. However, in Pak/KSA and Pak/Iran, there exists a similar parity. Hence, balancing does not work here.

Secondly, another alliance that makes the region volatile and compels Pakistan to navigate smartly is the new alliance led by Turkey. Turkey besides its close economic and commercial engagements is also a vocal supporter of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. However, it has divergent and conflicting interests in Syria, Libya, and Egypt from Pakistan’s gulf partners. Qatar’s closeness to Turkey and Iran made its relations rancorous with GCC countries. In the Qatar blockade, Pakistan wisely maintained neutrality, however, this time; the mounting conflicting dynamics are narrowing diplomatic space for Pakistan.

In managing its relations with new regional blocs, Pakistan should firstly prioritise its national interest. Currently, in the backdrop of the August 5 move, the Kashmir issue has become the lynchpin of Pakistan’s foreign policy. It has become an easy way to win Pakistan’s confidence. So far Turkey and Malaysia have succeeded to win the hearts of the Pakistani people by their vocal support. However, is Turkish and Malaysian support enough to pressurise Narendra Modi to restore the Kashmir status? These countries do not have much political clout in New Delhi and Washington as do Riyadh and its GCC partners. So far, Pakistan is disappointed by the response of its gulf partners on Kashmir; however, in the long run, the simmering public pressure against Modi atrocities could compel them to change their policies. Moreover, in the time of crisis, Pakistan could use their clout in New Delhi and Washington to deescalate tensions as it did successfully following the Balakot episode.

Navigating through this complex and sensitive region, Pakistan needs a dynamic and multipronged foreign policy. Firstly, the civil/military leadership should prioritise its key interests and then use different tools from its foreign policy kit for each partner in the region. The current Sino/Iran strategic deal has further narrowed parity between Pak/Iran and Pak/KSA relations. Secondly, despite a year after the altercation of Kashmir status, the Pakistani ruling elite is still bewildered and unable to devise a vibrant policy on Kashmir. Choosing between the economy and Kashmir, Pakistan is oscillating aimlessly. Without a strong economy, no one will pay heed on what is happening in Kashmir. Hence, taking Kashmir and economy hand-in-hand, Islamabad should devise a neutrality-cum-balancing strategy towards the Turkish-led bloc and the KSA-led block. Thirdly, Pakistan needs to diversify its partnership to reduce reliance on either side. This would give Pakistan enough space to manoeuvre. Moreover, Pakistan should place its best diplomats in the MENA region who know the art of diplomacy. As Churchill said, “Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they seek direction”.

pub-9018797892728621