The Israel nexus | Pakistan Today

The Israel nexus

Israel is just part of a much wider game

It’s a complicated multidimensional situation facing Pakistan with multiple possibilities, of which very few lead Pakistan out of the mess. So what is “it” that follows after the India-Pakistan standoff?  It is important to first look at the twin suicide attacks, one in Sistan, Iran and the other in Pulwama, which left Pakistan in a diplomatically vulnerable position. The shock of the lives lost and the public outcry in Iran and India respectively was strong. The intensity of the attacks was conveyed by respective neighbours and Pakistan’s Foreign Office was working feverishly to rescue Pakistan from falling into a diplomatic collapse; while the Pakistani leadership was preparing itself for the much anticipated visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Both were left stunned to reflect on what actually had happened.

Only few weeks earlier, Pakistan was intensely engaged in the Taliban-US negotiations with the Saudis in the backdrop. Were these events part of a greater plan? Or did they form a pattern leading to a shift in the regional politics?  Let the dots reveal the connections.

Iran, India, and perhaps Israel? Is there a deeper connection at work?

India is strengthening its relationship with Israel and the USA on many issues, including defence, terrorism, and perhaps against the Pakistan-China-Russia alignment. However, the attack has certainly brought Iran amd India closer on the diplomatic end, if not defense and terrorism. Iran, which is on the other end of the spectrum, has had strained relations with the USA and none with the Israel, but with this incident Iran has been drawn closer to India on the issue of terrorism. Can India bring Iran closer to Israel on extremism, or the Taliban? It is a very difficult equation to balance indeed, but will there be change in the long term?

Regional Politico-Economic Realignment

In a regional scene, complex politico-economic interests are also remerging. China has condemned the terror attacks, and does not approve of extremist elements destabilizing the region, CPEC, BRI or any of its other strategic plans. Pakistan in long term will find that any acute change from China’s socio-economic line will only isolate Pakistan more. In short, Pakistan has to weigh every action, move, and alignment it takes today, even in the short term, whether it is aligned with regional dynamics, and Chinese consideration in mind. Else easily Pakistan may find itself flying off the cliff.

The situation could not have been more disturbing, that the unfortunate incidents happened right before the strategically awaited Saudi royal visit which had been hallmarked by Saudi investment, strategic partnership, defense ties, and venture into CPEC. Saudi Arabia too would be embarrassingly worried about the state of affairs in Pakistan around her borders, especially since the next stop on the trip was India.

Economics Always In Any Equation

Pakistan, recently at the brink of an economic collapse, had barely managed to survive, when the escalation with India again threatens to take it back into a bigger financial crisis. Pakistan, which barely won a few billion dollars from friends, can find these precious dollar “support” and investments, “evaporate” in case of an escalation with India or even a standoff at the borders. Will it have repercussions? Who would benefit if Pakistan undergoes a financial crisis due to escalation? Again is there a long term prospective on this one too? Did India get Pakistan off its economic recovery track by its sabre-rattling?

The CPEC dimension

Post-attack scenes across Iran were far more intense than those in India. Public opinion is different in the two countries as well. India has a different strategy for the same objective. Iran and India are not going to be happy with the Saudi visit or the CPEC project, or these two ending up together: Saudi investment, that too in CPEC. The reason for India and Iran not liking the above to happen may be different, but Pakistan, Gwadar, CPEC, Saudi Arabia, has given India and Iran reasons to come closer while the suicide attacks provided the missing motivation. However the most significant development was perhaps Pakistan’s successfully handling Taliban-US negotiations which may have left India and Iran feeling at a disadvantage. This perception may be misplaced but it will now draw the new regional power flux with Pakistan emerging a clear winner. The USA and the Taliban may converge their energies against Iran, a perception which according to some analysts is perhaps making Iran extremely wary.

After the surgical strikes 

The twin suicide attacks happening at a strategic time, around certain events, was not a onetime random event; rather a significant plan to shift geopolitical powers in the region. So what is next awaiting Pakistan?

There may be border incursions in Pakistan from Afghanistan, and extreme anti-Pakistan elements in the tribal areas may resurface. There will be “players” who would infuse such a feeling amongst local tribesmen. According to some analysts perhaps PTM in KPK and BLA in Balochistan may rise again to agitate against Pakistan. Who will be motivating them and will they be interlinked?

Pakistan will be under pressure to act and that too as per the “prerequisite” set around it by Iran, China, Russia and perhaps the USA as well

But there is one certainty that Pakistan will be under pressure to act and that too as per the “prerequisite” set around it by Iran, China, Russia and perhaps the USA as well. Iran will exert its pressure for Pakistan to take some “concrete” steps which will be apparent in the coming days. Is it a possibility that perhaps Iran may conduct its own border operations.

On the other hand India will exert pressure through global and regional players, especially around the Financial Action Task Force. FATF is another point where Pakistan has been, and will be, vulnerable and current geopolitics will be played around this point. India will also exploit the current escalation to embarrass Pakistan in front of Saudi Arabia and the USA, and seek serious actions particularly on JeM and concessions in other areas, such as high-ranking Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav.

The writer is an independent professional who has worked for different multinational and multilateral organisations including the Asian Development Bank. He has been contributing on economics, finance, and regional foreign policy since 1997 for different newspapers. You can follow him on twitter @ hyshah1.