- The myth of Muslim Ummah
Pakistan’s influence in the Gulf has waned over time. Last year, India’s Foreign Minister was invited as guest of honour to address the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting despite Pakistan’s protests. Fifty years earlier India was denied entry in the OIC’s inaugural session despite fierce lobbying because Pakistan had objected.
India is seen by the Gulf rulers as a stable and industrially advanced country where their investments would not only be safe but also bring high returns. The ruling families of Saudi Arabia and UAE have preferred to stake billions in India. New Delhi has played upon the Gulf rulers’ fears of internal dissent, equating it with terrorism. Four years back India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman agreed to strengthen their cooperation in fighting ‘terrorism’ and to facilitate investments. A similar understanding was reached with the UAE. The Gulf rulers were told that Kashmiri freedom fighters were terrorists. While even a section of the influential western media condemned atrocities in Kashmir, the UAE Ambassador to India expressed hope that abrogating Article 370 would help improve the social and economic conditions in Jammu and Kashmir.
While India is seen in the Gulf as a dependable business partner, Pakistan is looked at as a country perennially in need of credit and oil on deferred payments. Pakistan‘s rulers have tried to develop personal relations with the visiting Gulf dignitaries by personally driving them from place to place. They make fools of themselves when trying to act as mediators in the Gulf disputes.
Three days after Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke about mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia making progress, Foreign Minister Qureshi told the Saudi-led OIC to stop foot-dragging on convening its Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on Kashmir. Mr Qureshi even threatened to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris. Whatever the incitement, the strong reaction cannot be helpful.
Instead of fiery reactions, there is a need for a robust but well-thought-out foreign policy. The Gulf countries are among Pakistan’s oldest allies. The government must take Parliament into confidence over the situation and the way it wants to change it to Pakistan’s favour.