By Hafsa Amin.
Blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE is turning into a real hot issue given the 13 demands to be accepted by Qatar by 3rd of July. These demands include cutting off diplomatic ties with Iran, stop aiding Hammas and Muslim Brotherhood and closing down Al Jazeera satellite network. Saudi Arabia and its allies have cut off food supplies and even denied airways rights to Qatar which is illegal according to the international law. The fact that no state can live in isolation and all states are connected to one another through diplomatic ties has created problems for most of the Non-Arab states.
Pakistan has connection to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It has signed a deal with Qatar over LNG supply to Pakistan for a lengthy period. The relations with Saudi Arabia need no definition. They have been termed as extensive friendship, the countries share a history of military cooperation as well as economic and cultural cooperation. While the “extreme good” relations of Sharif family have been shaken a bit but it is still a fact that the leading political family of Pakistan with the head Nawaz Sharif who is the acting PM and Foreign Minister of Pakistan have personal ties with both states.
International conflicts have a tendency to drag the inactive participants into crisis. Say it dependency or the fact of internationalization, it is hard for that states to stay away from conflicts that are not their original concerns. The escalation of the recent Arab world
crisis is very likely to do the same.
The crisis occurred after Trumps visit to Saudi Arabia when out of nowhere Saudi alliance boycotted Qatar after allegations of Qatar’s support to terrorism. Qatar has been allegedly supporting Hammas and Muslim Brotherhood, the accusation of which has been denied by the Qatar government. Food and other medical supplies have been denied by Saudi Arabia and as a quick response Iran and Turkey announced total support to Qatar in terms of food supplies and airspace.
Turns out that the crisis has now formed two blocs, one supported by United States of America include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Doha, U.A.E, Egypt while on the other hand stands Qatar, Iran, Turkey and it might add up to Russia. The Saudi alliance has given a deadline after which there are chances of a serious escalation. The real problem would occur when both alliances will ask the rest of the world to take sides. What would be the response of Pakistan?
Pakistan has officially announced the policy of Non-Alignment which is obviously not a long term decision. Once the Middle Eastern states adopt a harsh policy, it will become inevitable for Pakistan to choose one side. Either it is Qatar-Iran-Turkey or is it Saudi U.S-U.A.E.
Pakistani foreign relations have been heavily affected by the personality of its leadership. Current leadership of Pakistan have been involved in having personal affiliation to both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the relations however have been economic. It might become a hard choice for Pakistan to side with one party given the status of leadership. Nawaz Sharif is already accused of money laundering, the case of which is still in process. Recently the families have been clearly avoided by Saudi Leadership in the US led Islamic Alliance summit. Also there has been no aid from Qatar’s side in the Panama case. This gives a direction for the analyst and policy makers that Pakistan’s decision should be based on the state’s policy not the leadership’s policy.
This, however, doesn’t ease up the process of forming future policy of Pakistan. The relations with Saudi Arabia cannot be ignored, the fact which is triggered now by the presence of United States in Saudi bloc. But it can also not be ignored that Iran is our neighboring states which was already not in favor of Raheel Sharif’s (Ex COAS) presence in US-Arab Alliance. We are dependent for natural gas over Qatar and Iran. It is like the history repeating itself as during Cold War. Several factors affect Pakistan’s policy over this crisis.
- Pakistan has a long history with Saudi Arabia.
- It also has a deal with Qatar over LNG where Qatar decided to supply $16 billion worth of LNG to Pakistan for a lengthy period of time.
- Saudi Arabia is backed by the United States of America.
- The Arab-Iran conflict also affects the crisis as Iran has sided with Qatar and remains our neighbor. The ties with Iran are quite unstable which can get worse if Pakistan sides with Saudi alliance.
- Previously during bi-polarity the fact that India took side with Moscow helped Pakistan in choosing U.S. however, the current situation is clear that India would side U.S and Saudi Arabia.
- Russia might as well join the crisis, if not openly then undercover and it might create regional problems.
Are we at the point of another bi polar crisis? What could be the best possible option for Pakistan? The situation would remain disputed unless the leadership of Pakistan is changed (post JIT decision) or somehow shows concern towards one side. Current leadership might be more close to Saudi, but can we really afford regional instability when the country is already suffering from security issues? Whatever the decision might be, Pakistan would have to face consequences. The question is which consequences would be more bearable than the other. China could play an important role in Pakistan’s policy over the issue. Chinese peace policy remains the same but it might highlight future prospects for Pakistan. Whatever decision might come out, it is obvious that leadership will no longer affect Pakistan’s policy since it has been rejected indirectly by both parties.
The world hopes that the conflict is resolved peacefully but Saudi alliance shows no interest in peacemaking rather they are trying to enforce their 13 demands. In a day or two the deadline will be over and it would be obvious what would be the future prospects for the rest of the world as well as Pakistan.
Hafsa Amin is student of B.S International Relations at University of Gujrat. She can be reached at email@example.com