As the balance oscillates between the world powers, a storm brews, realigning the regional and global dynamics of nations everywhere. The acceptance of Israel by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries is one such outcome. With Saudi Arabia likely to follow suit, the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel brings a serious blow to Pakistan in light of the religious rhetoric under which Pakistan defined its policy towards Israel.
This has led analysts to raise questions on Pakistan’s unvarying stance regarding the boycott of Israel. There has been growing internal pressure with journalists going as far as calling Pakistan to redefine its policy towards Israel. Journalist Kamran Khan tweeted, “Pakistan must also revisit its Israel policy. Message for we Pakistanis from the Custodians of the Holy Mosques and other brothers in the Arab world. ‘Nations don’t have permanent friends or enemies, only interests’, Why is Pakistan shy of exercising its options?”. These sentiments have been shared and advocated by other journalist questioning the incoherency of Pakistan’s foreign policy and urging it to be re-evaluated.
While the status of Pakistan’s foreign policy remains in question, it is also important to bring into light the basis on which it is formulated. The principle of non-alignment and national interest was set in the very foundation of Pakistan’s formation. Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned that Pakistan has an independent foreign policy that remains neutral in international relations. Pakistan was created as a separate nation based on its ideological identity. Yet, after partition, it strongly condemned any ties with Israel despite it being the only other nation in the world based on ideological grounds and also the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. Addressing a broadcast in 1948, Quaid-e-Azam stated, “Our goal in the field of foreign policy is to be friendly to all and not to have undesirable intentions against any country.” He added, “We believe in an honest and conscientious approach to national and international affairs, and we strive to do our utmost to ensure world peace. According to the UN Charter, Pakistan will never shy away from supporting and assisting the oppressed nations.”
Seven decades later Prime Minister Imran Khan quotes the words of the Quaid “Our stance is very clear; as Muhammad Ali Jinnah said; Pakistan will never recognize Israel until Palestinians are given their right of a just settlement.” Continuing in the steps of the founding fathers Pakistan remains adamant on which sides it stands. What triggered the headlines and media outburst was an interview where Imran Khan revealed that the US and other countries, whose names he purposefully refused to state, were pressuring Pakistan to normalize its relations with Israel. However, the government spokespersons later denied any pressure from any region. They clarified that the status of Pakistan is in line with the Palestinian cause and condemned any ties with Israel. Further, it was added that the recognition of Israel would be the greatest injustice and it would be as similar as giving up on Kashmir as both issues are rooted in the same background.
There have been numerous occasions and incidents that have time and again highlighted the similarities between Kashmir and Palestine. The occupation by the Indians and Israel’s narrates the same story of subjected obliteration. It doesn’t come up as a surprise then that any policy that Pakistan might take up with Israel will inadvertently have an impact on its standing with Kashmir. If Pakistan gives in to the pressure and recognizes Israel, it will set up a precedent for Kashmir and will put Pakistan in a compromising position. With the state of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by the Indian forces and the West Bank on the verge of annexation by Israel, the right of self-determination for Kashmiris and Palestinians, which has been central a part of Pakistan’s foreign policy, seems inadequate. This puts Pakistan in a different position than the Gulf states and leaves no room for bilateral diplomatic ties with Israel.
Pakistan as the second-largest Muslim majority nation and the only nuclear-powered one holds significant ground in the geopolitics of Asia, and the Muslim states, with whatever stance it takes. While the impending outside pressures toppled by the fluctuating internal politics of the country, the government may be forced to rethink its foreign policy towards Israel. However, establishing based on the staunch position Pakistan have kept so far remained steadfast further, by the prospect of losing sovereignty over Kashmir, it seems probable that Pakistan will put first the factors of national unity in the light of true national interest over foreign intervention and would continue to hold the banner against oppression and injustice even if it has to advocate it all on its own.