By Durdana Najam
Pakistan swapped its “sense of defeat” on India’s invitation to the OIC with a “self-styled” success, when the OIC contact group on Jammu and Kashmir in the 46th session of the foreign minister meeting in Abu Dhabi passed a resolution that stated: “Jammu and Kashmir remains the core dispute between Pakistan and India and its resolution is indispensable for the dream for peace in South Asia.” The resolution reminded the international community of its obligation to see the issue of Kashmir resolved according to the UN Security Council Resolutions.
That Pakistan rejoiced on something that has long been OIC’s position on Kashmir and on which the organization has done nothing except lip service, shows how little Pakistan is aware of the changing dynamics and alignments in the region that had led to India’s invitation to the OIC, despite Pakistan’s strong opposition. It also shows Pakistan’s myopic focus vis-à-vis the OIC, which has long shifted its pivot from being a political organization inspired by faith and religious affinities to an organization focusing only on economic interests.
It was not the first time that Pakistan opposed India’s attendance in the Organization of Islamic Council (OIC). However, it was indeed the first time that the world body representing the interests of the Islamic countries and Muslims resisted Pakistan’s request. Had it been normal times, perhaps Pakistan may have swallowed the rejection. Since these were extraordinary times, when India had the audacity to cross the airspace over the Line of Control to attack Pakistan, the decision to see India’s presence blocked in the OIC became a matter of national prestige.
A parliamentary resolution was passed in the National Assembly, requesting the Council to empathize with Pakistan which had been blamed without investigation of sending militants in Jammu and Kashmir to plan and execute the Pulwama attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers on February 14, 2019. While Pakistan protested, the Minister for External Affairs of India, Sushma Swaraj, stood on the podium of the OIC’s foreign ministers’ session pleading the forum to “build pressure on the countries that support terrorist groups to dismantle terror infrastructure on their soil and stop funding such outfits.”
The lesson in it for Pakistan is that rather than sticking its neck out against India for her absorption into the Islamic world as a leading trade partner, it would serve Pakistan manifold if it puts its house in order and make its economy, rather than the security issues, speak to tame her enemies and make friends.
In this situation, what cards does Pakistan need to bet on to consolidate and strengthen its global standing?
First, Pakistan should come out of its “India-centric” security paradigm.
Two, Pakistan needs to rivet its focus on strengthening the economy at home to attract foreign investment.
Three, to successfully bet on the first two cards, Pakistan should bring to the logical end its resolve to eliminate militancy. For too long and at the expense of losing credibility of being a responsible nation, Pakistan has been using politics of faith and religion to handle domestic and foreign policies.
Where earlier Pakistan’s policies were being only questioned, now the country’s partners are asking it to take concrete action. First, it was the singling out of Pakistan with one push from the Financial Action Task Force, whereas another push came from our dear friend and ally China as part of the BRICS summit, asking Pakistan to breakaway with the policy of being soft on extremists.
The new regional order in South Asia is defined by the presence of China as the ultimate driver of power and domination. With the receding role of the US that has encouraged debt economies in Asia, the Chinese model of economy demands that countries in South Asia turn around their posture to the participative economy offering a quid pro quo in the form of cross-investment.
It is in line with this new change that India has given a back seat to its Palestine cause to join hands with Israel. Exactly the way that China has been asking Pakistan to adopt a similar policy on Kashmir. Andrew Small in his book, The China Pakistan Axis, writes: “Beijing has undoubtedly been pressing Pakistan to stabilize its relationship with India and has encouraged it to improve trade ties with that goal in mind.” The 21st century, or more precisely the post-cold war era is marked with ‘de hyphenating relations on ideology’ and re-hyphenating relations based on economic interest. The India Israel relationship is an example. “Modi’s government is now ready to de-hyphenate the issues of Israel and Palestine,” said Kabir Taneja, an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.
Israel is India’s third largest supplier of defense equipment after Russia and the US. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel has supplied $1.7bn worth of defense equipment to India over the past ten years. Much more business is in the pipeline. India has placed a $1.6bn order for an Israeli anti-aircraft missile system.
In a typical analysis emanating from the theory of conspiracy, the alliance may look at the grouping of two cults against the Muslim world. Just like the 5th generation warfare mantra, this mentality would cause Pakistan further loss of presence in the international arena for its lack of economic participation.
According to the sources privy to the in-camera meeting held in the National Assembly of Pakistan in the aftermath of Balakot attack, the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, unequivocally talked about building trade relations with India and dismantling the remaining infrastructure of militant organizations in the country.
Before the civilian government gets on to the business of peace in the region, Pakistan should learn to stop sulking India’s presence in any forum, be it the OIC, and register the fact that, nuclear power notwithstanding, not many countries, not even the all-weather friend China, condemned India for attacking Pakistan.
It was the power of the economy, the size of Corporate India, the stakes of multi-billion trade in the ever-burgeoning Indian market that had an impact and played a major role in the recent Indo-Pak tensions. On the flip side, appreciation for Pakistan did not spring from its skill to down the Indian warfighter jets, but from the peace overtures Pakistan offered to mitigate the crisis. Building on this bet, it is in Pakistan’s interest to develop strong economic footprints in the region.