India’s influence in the Middle East underwent a significant upsurge as a result of the positive diplomatic maneuvers under the Look West policy carried out by the Narendra Modi government. This policy has resulted in an expansion of India’s bilateral relations with countries of the Middle East from oil-energy trade and the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has further boosted the geo-strategic interests of both the side. A glaring testimony to this was the invitation extended by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2019 to late Sushma Swaraj, who was then the Indian Minister of External Affairs. Swaraj was the “guest of honour” at the inaugural plenary 46th meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers. This was a major diplomatic blow to Pakistan and as expected, it started fuming with baseless rhetoric. This rhetoric, however, did not find any popular support.
India is deepening engagement with the Gulf nations, cultivating much better ties with Arabs than Pakistan! It is a zero-sum game for Pakistan. Policy based on religion rather than economic considerations gets doomed. After all, money gets food on the plate, not the religion. India’s cooling relations with Iran and potential loss of the Chabahar Port to China is a sacrifice to rear Arabian interests. Now India may edge even closer to the Gulf Arabs for safety in an Arab détente with Israel. India’s growing influence in the Middle East nullifies Pakistan’s cry for Kashmir.
Pakistan has also been time and again left red-faced over the fact that it’s propaganda on Kashmir finds virtually no backing in the Middle East countries. After India took the much-needed step to scrap Article 370, Pakistan started crying foul but of no avail. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran have called this an internal matter of India. Pakistan’s recent dealings with Saudi Arabia can at the best be described as naïve and puerile. Pakistan literally begged Saudi Arabia to speak on Kashmir. However, Saudi Arabia was so miffed that the country demanded Pakistan repay to part of the $3bn loan and also froze a $3.2bn oil credit facility.
Islamists must realize that the world has changed a lot in the last six decades. Countries today have economic compulsions of feeding millions; Islamism and geopolitics can wait. This has brought non-Arab Muslim countries – Malaysia and Turkey – to the forefront of Muslim leadership. But blanket Muslim solidarity on the Kashmir and Palestine issues may never happen. Saudi Arabia has been the leader of Islamic countries since the inception of the OIC in 1969. Now Turkey is aspirant, so are Pakistan and Malaysia. There is too big a crowd up there while nonagenarian Islamist Mahathir Mohammed eyes the post. The UAE-Israel deal could cause further decline in the Muslim world’s ritual espousal of Palestine and Kashmir causes. Pakistan went overdrive on Muslim solidarity in Kashmir and furiously banged its head on the OIC doors but its silence on the oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang exposed its political opportunism, and eroded its credibility.
Saudis and Turkey enjoy cordial relations with Israel. Turkey has formal relations with Israel since 1950 but won’t like the UAE doing the same. Turkey revels in hypocrisy, double talk and never walks the talk on its Middle-East policy. Turkey remains a hot spot for Israeli tourism so much so that Israeli don’t even need to apply for a VISA to visit Turkey. The UAE-Israel deal should goad other Arab countries towards normalization. Islamism has run its course. Days of hard-core Islamist ideology and Islamic fundamentalism are over. Pakistan and the few nations who back it must realize that Seventh Century ideology has no takers in the Twenty First Century.
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