It’s now Pakistan vs Saudi Arabia

Islamabad sees policy shift in Middle Eastern alliances, reports Gopal Misra

The Pakistani establishment i.e. the army headquarters, GHQ, with its civilian face, Prime Minister Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, appears to have decided to shed off its close ties with Saudi Arabia to strengthen its alliance with Turkey, Iran and Malaysia that too under the Chinese umbrella.

Undeterred by the Saudi Arab’s refusal to offer petrol on prolonged credit line that too accompanied by the demand for the return of a few billion dollars given to it, the relations between these two allies have come to a new low.

Pakistan is convinced that since it holds the nuclear sword represents the ultimate power of Islam in the region, the Arab world needs it more than it needs them. It has an element of surprise, because the two countries have close defense and financial ties. A brigade of Pakistani army is stationed at Riyadh. It has also given intensive training in modern warfare to the Arabs

It is believed that the GHQ’s decision to take paradigm shift in the established foreign policy could not have been possible without the Chinese promptings. Earlier, it has been mostly toeing the US-Arab agenda. With a “puppet” prime minister as its civilian face, the decision to change the foreign policy could have been done only by the army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa. Under a sham democracy with most of the country’s politicians implicated in cooked up corruption charges, Bajwa is the sole ruler of the country. He is finally taking Pakistan finally to the Chinese orbit of influence, especially when the USA and China are confronting each other that too amidst the pandemic of COVID-19 and China’s growing belligerence in the international affairs.

One of the pro-democracy channels run by Pakistanis in London, even called Khan “shameless, thankless and even gaddar or traitor”. They have also traced the history of corruption in his family. His father was dismissed from a government job for taking bribes during the regime of Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto. Also, most of the Pakistanis living outside their country, blame army for the civil war that had led to secession of its eastern wing to become Bangladesh. They apprehend that Bajwa and his puppet, Khan, may hand over Baluchistan finally to China.

The continuous USA pressure to dismantle its deeps state proxies against India and Afghanistan appears to have finally convinced the GHQ that it has finally found a much more trusted ally and patron in China than USA. It does not need the pro-west Arabs anymore. Meanwhile, China has also extended huge financial support to Pakistan to pay off the Saudi debt. With Iran-China tie-up, maybe, Pakistani establishment is correct that its fuel needs to be met without any hassle. Its dependence on the Saudi Arab is no more required.

Earlier, the power equations within the middle-east had started shifting following the drones attacks in September 2019 on Saudi’s Armco oil processing facilities at Abqaid and Khrais. It is believed the attacks have had Iranian connection, though the Houthis movement in Yamen had claimed that it had attacked the Saudi facilities. The Saudi officials stated that in this attack, Iranian missiles and bombs were used.

Pakistan has been pursuing to make new alliances with Turkey and Malaysia. Earlier, it had tried to maintain its neutrality on the disputes in the region in Yemen, Iraq and Libya.

Its frustration with the Arab world increased with the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) following its refusal to endorse Pakistan’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir. In its assessment, the army finds Pakistan’s bigger and assertive role in the region under the Chinese umbrella.

It is also being pointed out that except China, Pakistan’s new found allies, Malaysia and Turkey, are in no position to offer huge financial support the country needs. It means that we must reaffirm our ties with Saudi Arabia. It is also being asked, “Why Pakistan should annoy Saudi Arabia, when China is keeping good relationship with Saudi Arab as well as with Iran.

Meanwhile, Chinese strategy is to cement its new alliances in the region before the US presidential polls. In its bid to wean away from the west, China is keen that Pakistan should follow its policies in the region. It appears, GHQ has taken the Chinese advice seriously that after the elections, USA and China would “reinvent” their business ties to end the ongoing confrontation.