India, under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, has made huge strides when it has come to forging deep relations with the Arab World. Now, the Army Chief MM Naravane is travelling to Saudi Arabia and the UAE next week, a visit that is being hailed as a new chapter in the relationship between India and a more pragmatic Arab World. During his visit, Naravane is expected to address the Saudi National Defence College during the first such visit by an Indian Army Chief to Saudi Arabia.
India has significantly deepened its engagement with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent years. During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2019, India and Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defence industries collaboration and an agreement on security cooperation. Both sides are also exploring the possibility of holding bilateral military exercises. And the visit of General Naravane is expected to sow seeds of a military alliance as well.
India has already to a larger extent militarized the Quad to counter China’s influence in the South China Sea as well as Indo-Pacific. And if New Delhi succeeds in forging a military alliance with the Arab World, then it could send warning bells ringing across Pakistan, Turkey, and China. The former has gradually been sidelined by the Arab World and is now reliant on China and Turkey for the few crumbs they throw its way to survive. Off late, it has become a modus operandi for the Imran Khan government to take loans at exorbitant interest rates from China to pay Saudi Arabia, which has been tightening the noose around the terrorist state to pay back the loan amount it had so dishonourably asked for and then went to sit in the lap of Turkey.
Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the issue of Kashmir were dealt a huge blow as Saudi Arabia, the de-facto leader of the Muslim world has been steadfast in its stance that the Kashmir issue is India’s internal matter and has consequently deferred Pakistan’s plans in OIC.
After trying to undermine Saudi Arabia and facing the subsequent dejection in OIC, Islamabad turned towards Turkey which dangled the carrot of Kashmir issue on its head as bait. Led by madman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is increasingly looking to dismount the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim World and crown itself as the Caliph.
This is partly the reason why certain nations of the Arab world signed the Abraham records brokered by the USA. Although Saudi Arabia is still keeping its cards close to its chest when it comes to Israel, enough evidence suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is already conducting backdoor dealings with the USA’s biggest ally in the region.
Furthermore, the UAE gave a jolt to Pakistan by announcing a visa ban on Pakistanis on November 24, 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAE’s response has been so harsh that Pakistan was found grappling with it, as the announcement got public through the media and the UAE did not even communicate it through its official channels. The Express Tribune reported on November 25, 2020 that about 3000 Pakistanis have been stripped of their job visas by the UAE. The Emirati leadership is pressuring Pakistan to accept Israel as a partner of UAE, or else face the consequences.
The growing economic ties between India and the Arab world — Saudi Arabia, for instance, is India’s fourth-largest trading partner and supplies about 18 percent of India’s crude requirement and around 30 percent of its LPG needs – and the large presence of the Indian diaspora in the Middle East have been key factors driving the dynamic relationship for decades.
Keeping all these recent developments in mind, one can foresee that if India does indeed manage to forge formal military ties with Saudi Arabia then Pakistan would be having sleepless nights, and its neo-colonial master China would not be able to do anything about it. Pakistan has no one but itself to blame for all the travesty that has come its way in the year 2020.