Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia will remain a non-starter

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India’s misplaced hopes to drive some wedge between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are out of touch with ground realities

HUSSAIN SAQIB

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Saudi Arabia from April 2, 2016 on special invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud. This visit may be very important milestone for India’s diplomacy in reaching out to the richest monarchy in the Middle East. However, significance of this visit is being blown out-of-proportion by Indian media implying that through this visit, India would successfully isolate Pakistan from its most trusted friend.  This visit, according to the media, is part of a “broader diplomatic offensive to put pressure on arch rival Pakistan by forging ties with some of Islamabad’s closest allies”. India is making efforts through this visit, and through an earlier one to UAE, to virtually encircle Pakistan. Stated purpose of the visit is to sign trade agreements, including contracts to secure investment for infrastructure projects, and offer security and military cooperation, such as training and joint exercises.

India has so far effectively used Pakistan’s Muslim neighbors to cause instability by establishing strong relations with Iran and Afghanistan. Afghanistan has anti-Pakistan since 1947 till today except during the Taliban rule. Iran is trade and defense partner of India and there is a string of consulates opened by India in Iran and Afghanistan along Pakistan border to support subversive activities being perpetrated inside Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, though not a neighbor, has always been supporter of Pakistan in more than one ways except some tension because of Pakistan’s reluctance to join Saudi forces in war in Yemen. India is, apparently, taking advantage of this situation but given the nature of Saudi-Pakistan relations and their inter-dependence,  it would be quite interesting to see how India drives a wedge between these two Muslim countries and win over one of Pakistan’s closest allies to push her into a corner. All said and done, that would still be too early to predict.

Apart from the rhetoric associated with Muslim Ummah, of which Saudi Arabia is a self-appointed leader and Pakistan the sole nuclear power, relations between nations are not governed by anything except national interests. Thus there are neither any permanent enemies nor permanent friends. The very fact that Russia was Pakistan’s sworn enemy during the Cold War and is warming up to Pakistan because of changing ground realities proves the point; every relation in realpolitik is governed by the interests.

Currently, Saudi Arabia despises Iran and anything associated with it. Both the countries have fought bloody proxy war in Pakistan since the installation of Mullah Regime in Iran. Current turmoil in the Middle East is partly a consequence of the standoff between the two countries, both of which are trying to outsmart each other for their hegemonic designs. If the rumors are to be believed, Saudi Arabia is willing to even embrace Israel to bomb and eliminate Iran. In this backdrop, would the House of Saud change course and welcome India which is the closest ally of Iran in the South West Asian region?

This clearly defeats logic and common sense.

Pakistan caught between Saudi Arabia and Iran

The depth of Indo-Iran relations is beyond comprehension. Iran allowed India to build Chabahar port West of Gwadar to encircle Pakistan. Pakistan has been looking after Iran’s interest in its hour of trial and never accepted subtle US suggestions to use Pakistani bases to strike Iran. In addition to this, Pakistan’s cooperation with Iran fighting Jundullah and facilitating arrest of Regi brothers, leaders of this group. Despite that, Iran is known to have fanned insurgency in Balochistan to fuel the fires of separation. It has now been revealed that Iran also cooperated with India by providing safe havens to RAW operatives who organized acts of terrorism in Pakistan from the Iranian soil.

Commander Kulbhushan Yadav, a senior level officer of India’s secret service, RAW was arrested by Pakistani agencies for not only acts of espionage but also for organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan. According to his own admission, he was safely based in the city of Chabahar in Iran from where he was running his network for terrorist activities in Pakistan.  The very fact that Pakistan has publically demanded an explanation from Iran for sheltering RAW network working against Pakistan and is asking for extraditing those pointed out by Yadav, speaks very clearly that Pakistan is in possession of irrefutable evidence of Iran’s covert cooperation with India for creating instability in Pakistan leading to its disintegration.

It may be true that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strained relations due to Pakistan’s reluctance to send its troops to fight in Yemen for Saudi Arabia. Although, Pakistan took a principled stand in Saudi-Yemen conflict, and respected Iran’s sensitivities, yet this stand has done no damage of the scale which India can take advantage of to isolate Pakistan. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have their own strategic compulsions to go along despite certain issues. Both countries understand each other’s positions.

While one should wish him good luck in his endeavor to make new friends, it would be naïve to assume that Mr. Modi will be able to achieve what Indian media is claiming. Even if he bends over backward. Their enthusiasm is not only misplaced; it is out of touch with ground realities.

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