Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pakistan reaches out to Persian Gulf region

Three Pakistani high-level delegations are touring the Persian Gulf region. Two of them are most certainly substantive - President Asif Zardari's visit to Kuwait and Interior Minister Rahman Malik's to Riyadh - while the visit by Farooq Naek, the chairman of the Pakistani senate [upper house of parliament] to Iran seems more of a goodwill visit. Not that generating 'goodwill' with Iran at this juncture of great volatility in the Saudi-Iranian relationship or US-Iran standoff is any less than a suggestive balancing act by Pakistan.
From all appearance, Malik's arrival in Riyadh out of the blue Saturday on an unscheduled visit catches the eye. Malik is no ordinary cabinet minister. He is a hatchet man of much importance and his responsibilities cover the range of security issues affecting/surrounding/engulfing/threatening Pakistan today. Second, the consultations took place after bin Laden's killing. That Malik left home turf at all when the temperature is running so high within Pakistan underlines that there was something of extreme urgency and sensitivity to be discussed with the Saudi leadership at the highest level. He was deputed as special envoy so that he could talk straight with the Saudi king.
There have been persistent reports that Riyadh and Ankara were lately prevailing upon the Pakistani leadership to let the Americans have bin Laden. Whether or not Pakistan heeded the Saudi advice has become a moot point. The Abbottabad operation has damaged the operational level working relationship between the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies and militaries, which needs some immediate therapy as time is of the essence of the matter in Afghanistan. Finally, the Saudis are all ears as to what happens now to al-Qaeda, whose original mission, let us not forget, was to effect "regime change" in the Arabian Peninsula and banish the Saudi royal family - although it is myopic to overlook the convoluted and covert Saudi dealings with the al-Qaeda organism all along.
No doubt, Malik briefed the Saudi leadership on what has been gleaned from bin Laden's family members who are in Pakistani custody. Some of them at least would long to go home in Saudi Arabia. Evidently, Malik was on a visit of extreme sensitivity for the Saudis, too. This was evident from the fact that just about all the people who matter in the Saudi security and foreign policy establishment were present when King Abdullah received Malik. From the list of Saudi officials present, it seems matters of intelligence sharing, scale of any Pakistani help in the event of instability in the GCC region, and Afghanistan and US-Pakistan relations would have figured in the talks. To be sure, the Saudis will be wondering how the Taliban leadership would take all these happenings - Bin Laden killing and the tensions in US-Pakistan relations. Besides, what happens now to the Saudi efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table? It seems highly unlikely, though, that the Saudis approve the unilateralist US operation in Abbottabad, which now leaves a lot of debris all around. Recent reports suggest that King Abdullah takes a dim view of the US regional policies under Barack Obama.
Zardari's Kuwait visit is also not lacking in substance, although of a patently lower grade than Malik's mission to Saudi Arabia in sensitivity. Zardari's accent was on the generous financial help that Kuwait extended to Pakistan over the years. Interestingly, Kuwaiti PM Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah told Zardari that his country always valued Pakistan's support for Kuwait "in every difficult hour, particularly after the Iraqi invasion in 1991." A highly relevant and topical invocation of time past, isn't it?
Equally, Naek was well-received in Tehran. The top leadership met him - Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Ali Laijani and Alae'ddin Broujerdi. The APP dispatch makes out that the talks went beyond protocol needs and was not exactly lacking in political content. At any rate, Naek reportedly told Ahmedinejad that "Peace in Afghanistan was linked with Pakistan and it had no military solution. It could only be resolved through dialogue among the major regional players, including Iran." Larijani stressed that Iran and Pakistan are on the same in the fight against terrorism.
Again, Naek assured Iranian FM Ali Akbar Salehi (who is travelling to Islamabad shortly) about curbing the activities of the Baluchi terrorist group Jundullah (which is alleged to have links with the US intelligence operatives in AfPak). Most important, he told Salehi that Pakistan believed in the "policy of non-interference and non-intervention" and that the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of every state ought to be protected for establishment of permanent peace in the region". The big question is, what exactly did Naek have in mind? There is so much foreign interference and intervention taking place in the region - GCC intervention in Bahrain, US operations in Abbottabad, US drone attacks on Pakistan, US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, US threats to Iran, etc. Conceivably, Naek sought to set an orientation for Salehi's agenda during the latter's forthcoming talks in Islamabad. Pakistan is in acute need of Iran's friendship and understanding at this point of great insecurities and vulnerability.

11 comments:

moneybhai said...

After Osama's killing, do you think US has any incentive to stay in Afganistan(after dilapidated state of cash starved Al-Qaeda)? If US leaves Afganistan at this moment, then I believe India would be big disadvantage since Iran and Pakistan would be calling shots in Afganistan.

veerar said...

Generally,the USA will STAY PUT in a nation,once she gains entry.So one has to actually witness the US withdrawal,as Eurasia is a very important piece in Brezezinsky's political and diplomatic, Chess game.And Iran and Pakistan have different perspectives regarding Afghanistan,as both have interests.Besides,Pakistan ,from a religious point of view echos the Saudi Sunni interests while Iran,those of the Shias.There are many "war-lords" to be taken into account,too.

Sangeeth Viswambharan said...

As Pakistan and China think, the US is not going to walk away from Afghanistan. They will go on controlling the country which is strategically close to Iran, Russia and overall China. So any talk of Pakistan getting a controlling stake in afghanistan or china aquiring mineral wealth are all not a possibility in the forseeable future.

What US is looking at is to reduce the cost of military operations in Afghanistan. It cannot be done unless the terror organisations are attacked. All of us know that most of the terror leadership is safely ensconced in Pakistan. After Obama has took charge he has shifted the offensive to Pakistan slowly. The drone strikes started first, now the covert operation to kill Osama. Coming days we shall see more action by US in Pakistan to kill the terrorists. The fight will slowly and surely shift from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
With the nuclear weapons lying around only a stupid will walk away from Pakistan with a job half done. So all will have wait a while to hear about US withdrawal from Af-Pak

ss0099218 said...

The killing of Osama can have more than one interpretations. Is the killing of Osama tantamounts to removing the raison d'etre for the continued presence of American forces in Afghanistan? Or is the reverse the real rationale for the action? Is President Obama forcing the hands of the Pakistani Government and the Kazai Government of Afghanistan? The Americans are gradually eliminating the manoevring leeways for both these Governments for any independent position?

webasura said...

It would be nice if Bhadrakumar ji's commentary included a discussion of India's strategic calculus in all of this. There is no mention of India here at all.

OPTICIANS WITHOUT BORDERS said...

Pakistan is playing a double role and cannot be trusted..sends troops to Bahrain aiding the oppression of shias.
Its double role and opportunism is well known.These visits are just meant as a begging bowl...PAKISTAN IS A TRAGEDY...........THE NEXT IS US TO DESTROY THE NUCLEAR SITES YOU'LL SEE...Pahistan will be a non issue than...

Rowan Berkeley said...

The way I see it, Pakistan is supplying mercenaries to the Sauds and the Gulf Emirs, to aid in their crackdown on Shi'as, among other things. However, there is a major contradiction for Pakistan, namely the fact that it is impossible not to see that the Sauds and the Gulf Emirs are dancing to a USraeli tune. No one who pays attention to Arab politics can fail to understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is now busily looking, probably in response to the wishes of the Sauds, for a modus vivendi with Israel. The Pakistani public are not naive, and they don't appreciate seeing 'Islamic solidarity' prostituted in this way, do they?

Rowan Berkeley said...

Let me just add, in case anyone disputes what I say about the MBs: if we look at Syria, we can hardly doubt that an MB takeover there would be good news for Israel. An MB government in Syria would be less supportive of Hezbollah than the Assad government is, not more. It might sponsor a token Sunni anti-zionist force in Lebanon, but this would merely weaken Hezbollah, and thus weaken the substantive anti-zionist movement as whole, not strengthen it.

bala said...

Vienna,14-05-2011
Pakistan needs funds. I think Zardari
made more than one pilgrimage to Kuwait
recently.He wanted to shuttle regularly
to to China but had to give up the idea
under Uncle Sam´s pressure.Pakistan is
no way in a position to influence GCC
decisions.-Kulamarva Balakrishna

Benoy said...

It is a planted story that the Saudi rulers were against Osama or vice versa. If the level of antagonism was what is potrayed in the media the wives and children of Osama would not have survived anywhere in the middle-east. We know the human rights track record of those regimes. The Saudis were playing the same double game the Pakis are, but a bit less recklessly.

Diplomatic Pk said...

After Osama's killing, do you think US has any incentive to stay in Afganistan(after dilapidated state of cash starved Al-Qaeda)?

Diplomatic Focus