India’s misplaced euphoria on Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to New Delhi

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Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is arriving in India only a day after announcing $20 billion initial investment during his visit to Pakistan, a country India is seeking to isolate internationally.

HUSSAIN SAQIB

While Pakistanis are jubilant over the outcome of a 2-days Pakistan visit of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indians have their own reasons to pin hopes to this visit to turn tables on Pakistan. For Pakistan, this visit was unprecedented in terms of its takeaways, the very personal touch given by leadership of both the countries and effective military diplomacy conducted by Pakistan’s military leadership to bring Pak-Saudi relations back on track. The Saudi guest instantly rose to the zenith of popularity in Pakistan when he said, “consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia”. Both countries have been traditional allies; with Pakistan lending its military muscle to meet national security needs of the Kingdom and, particularly the defense of Islam’s two Holy Mosques.

This has always been reciprocated by Saudis with economic aid and sale of oil on deferred payment whenever the need arose. Both countries were on the forefront of Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 70s and 80s before the organization became dormant and redundant. Together they fought Soviet invasion in Afghanistan with American dollars and equipment, though it was Pakistan left to itself to bear the blow-back of drugs, guns and associated crimes brought to Pakistan by the Jihad. Only recently, the relations were strained when Saudis’ expectation of Pakistan joining anti-Yemen alliance could not materialize due to Pakistan’s polite refusals to oblige. It was a decision of the Parliament not to join Saudi alliance, though Pakistan showed its commitment to defend integrity of the Saudi Kingdom which effectively meant it would not take part in any misadventure against any other State.

Then in 2015, Pakistan had very convincing reasons to refuse to land its troops in Yemen. The annoyance of Saudi leadership and its allies in the Gulf was so pronounced that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to exploit the situation to “isolate” Pakistan. He is optimistic once again to turn Saudi Arabia against Pakistan during visit of the Crown Prince today, February 19, 2019. According to The Times of India, the government said on Monday that the Kingdom’s position on not just terrorism but also J&K dispute had evolved to India’s advantage. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is arriving in India only a day after announcing $20 billion initial investment during his visit to Pakistan, a country India is seeking to isolate internationally.
Official sources in New Delhi said that, if anything, it was Pakistan which needed to worry about India’s growing ties with Riyadh which has seen the two countries considering enhancing defense ties and considering joint naval exercises. The government remained undeterred by reports that Salman had expressed solidarity with Pakistan in their attempts to combat terrorism, saying that it hoped the crown prince’s visit to India will help it drive home the message that Pakistan needed to check cross-border terrorism.

There are reasons which suggest that India’s euphoria over Salman’s visit may be entirely misplaced. Prime Minister Modi visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2016 to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States when the relation between Pakistan and these countries were visibly strained. All Modi could get was some civil award and false hopes. There is no doubt that India has effectively used Pakistan’s Muslim neighbors to cause instability by establishing strong relations with Iran and Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been 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, apparently, did try to take 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 an undisputed 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. 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.

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 actively cooperated 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. 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 publicly 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.

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