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Pakistan Foreign Policy: Aligned With Saudi Arabia? – OpEd

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After the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan and Emirati Minister for Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak Al-Nahyan, Islamabad is ready to roll out red carpet for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ) in Islamabad. Like last year, Crown Prince AL Nahyan is enthusiastic to make his first official state trip to Pakistan in 2020. According to the UAE envoy, the trip is to be made to strengthen the brotherly ties between the two countries by discussing the matters of mutual interest.

In international relations, timing matters a lot. Not confirm either fortunately or unfortunately, let it be decided later. Pakistan has again become the favourite state for Saudi and Emeriti officials since Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to not attend Kuala-Lumpur summit after having consultation Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS). How Prime Minister Imran Khan’ can deny the MBS’s suggestion? Yes, it is hard for a leader of a country to deny the suggestion of a leader who help the country to overcomes its economic deficit through foreign aid. Beside it, personally, Prime Minister Khan has deep relations with Crown Prince MBS, As the two leaders warmly welcome each-other with high protocol on their state’s visits by personally driving the guest’s car during the state’s visit.

Let me recall, Prime Minister Khan confirmed his participation in the Kuala-Lumpur Summit, earlier. The sudden change in plan on eleventh hour, was been justified by the Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan as “The priorities, the national priorities are linked to national narrative and national interest”. Yes, I could agree if PM Khan did not confirm his participation in KL summit earlier. While taking a decision, a leader always choose the option which serves the nation’s national interest efficiently and effectively. It is not the matter either PM khan had to attend the KL summit or not. My concern is with the way PM Khan informed the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It is the greatness of Dr Mohamad that he appreciated PM IK’s call of informing his unavailability in KL summit. What Dr Mohamad could do except it? Nothing as he neither gave us ‘Riyal’ ever, nor he gave us ever anything except a Malaysian car to PM Khan.

As said earlier, time matters in international politics. The PM Khan’s act of cancelling the plan revealed the two different aspects. First one is the miscommunication between the foreign office and the Prime Minister Secretariat. The second aspect is, we have aligned our foreign policy with the Saudi Arabia, rather than the founder of Pakistan M.A Jinnah’s vision which was “peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations (maybe M.A Jinnah forgot to advise that ‘not to prioritise the one Muslim county over other’). Here it is not been claiming that Pakistan has lost equilibrium in relations by not participating in the KL Summit. But we did not go with the majority of the Muslim countries as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries which did not participate in the said summit.

Let come to the first aspect. The leader of success nations plans his official trip and takes decision according to the recommendation of the foreign office. If it happens in Pakistan, PM Khan never confirmed his participation to Dr Mohamad. Later. Let agree. PM Khan took participating decisions on the recommendation of the Foreign office. But Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi statement “Pakistan has pulled out of an international summit for leaders of Muslim countries to be held in Malaysia over concerns it could “divide” the Muslim world” gives an alternative picture as the reason behind cancelling the trip, is what the Foreign Minister claimed, then the capability of policymakers is being questioned that why they did not inform the PM Khan with the concern of dividing Muslim Ummah before accepting the invitation. Maybe the said concern emerged after accepting the invitation.

In ancient times, when someone pleased the King, the King gave him the gold coins equal to the pleaser weight. Now PM Khan has pleased both Crown, Saudi Crown Prince MBS and Emirati Crown MbZ, by not attending the KL summit along with them. the question emerges what PM Khan got in reward?  It too early to forecast the exact reward but PM Khan would receive the reward in term of aid or investment during the Emirati Crown Price MbZ’s visit. Remember, he offered $3 billion financial assistance during his last year visit to Pakistan last year. Now the assistance definitely would be large as the Crown MbZ is more happy as before. While the Saudi reward is due. Maybe it would be given upon the Crown Prince Visit to Pakistan which may be planned in coming days as he planned his last year after the Crown Prince MbZ visit to Pakistan.

*The author is a Research Scholar. Currently, perusing his MS in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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