The dean of Arab diplomacy, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, died at the age of 91 in Minnesota US because of his illness. Kuwait state media reported his death on 29 September. World leaders, along with the regional leaders and the UN General Secretary, mourned on his death. The legacy he has left behind has compelled the world’s leadership to express their deep condolences to his family. He was the architect of the modern Kuwaiti diplomacy. He was regarded as the symbol of stability, continuity and the most trusted ally by the US and other Western leaders in the Arab region.
Late Emir was born in 1929 and was the fourth son of Sheikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. His family has ruled Kuwait since the 18th century. After receiving primary education from Al Mubarakya School and he completed education under private tutors. He was grown up under the British Protectorate of Kuwait. At the age of 25, he was named the first foreign minister of Kuwait in 1963, after two years of its independence from British colony till 2003. He experienced the war of 1967, conflicts, the Oil Embargo of 1973, the Iranian threat of exporting its revolution to Kuwait after 1979, the Iran-Iraq war, and Kuwait’s invasion by Saddam Hussein in 1990-91. He observed these situations closely with the spectrum of regional stability, security, the balance of power, development and national interest, which led to his emergence as a seasonal diplomat. From 2003 to 2006, he became the country’s prime minister and the de facto leader suitable for the Crown. When Sheikh Jaber, Emir of Kuwait, died on 15 January 2006, Sheikh Saad, the Crown Prince became the new Emir. Still, he abdicated the throne because of his health, and Sheikh Sabah became the new Emir of Kuwait in late January 2006 with the National Assembly‘s approval.
Experienced and sensible, Sabah saw a series of crises such as regional security challenges and stability, which made him the regional mediator and preserved the Arab world’s coherence. He was proclaimed local mediator and humanitarian leader by the West and the United Nations. Sabah was the foreign minister when Kuwait joined the UN in 1963. Soon, the Gulf Cooperation Council was formed in 1981. He had a complete grip on the foreign policy of the country. He had the sense to effectively conduct international relations with proper balancing between the gulf states and other western countries. He had observed the crises and regional governments’ policies, which were the biggest hurdle in developing a peaceful and stable the Middle East. To preserve the GCC’s coherence, he seized the opportunity and stooped up with the modern diplomatic design and vision of international stability.
After the Iraqi invasion of 1991, Kuwait suffered from massive infrastructure losses and resulted in a divided, chaotic society with Kuwait’s government, along with Sabah, in exile. After the country was restored, Sabah took the lead and headed the reconstruction plans. He carefully established relations with Iraq after Saddam, managed its ties between Iran and Saudia Arabia, promised billions of dollars for Iraq’s reconstruction after 2003, made visits, and provided the funding for war-torn Syria. He mediated from time to time between the issues of Arab countries.
He called GCC to preserve its identity in 2014 when Qatar was accused of financing terrorism. In 2017 in the Qatar Crisis and blockade, the leaders turned to the Emir of Kuwait to mediate the crisis and restore affairs among the gulf countries. The mediation was not successful, but the extensive efforts were put into resolving the Qatar crisis. The Emir traveled from country to country by himself to meet with the key leaders of the parties in the problem, including Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha, to reach on the point where deadlock is removed, and they could continue business as usual. Kuwaiti Emir took a deep interest in the resolution and de-escalation of the Yemeni conflict. He wanted to restore Yemen and avoid the humanitarian crisis generated by the war. He was deeply concerned with the severe humanitarian conditions there.
Domestically, Emir proposed various reforms in the political system and granted rights to those who deserved it. He was always ahead of the neighboring monarchies in giving more basic rights to its people. The implementation gained comprehensive support for him, which helped him to stabilize his monarchy and power. He had complete control of the internal affairs as well. He was an extremely patient, wise, and long-term planner. He took the steps which proved to be the best for his reign.
In 2005, he granted the women voting rights and allowed them into government. The opposition has widely opposed, but he stood still and believed in what a pragmatic statesman would think. He also promoted the constitutional assembly, granted his people more participation in the government. Kuwait became relatively free under his reign, and the economy flourished.
When Arab Spring was sweeping the Middle East, he successfully managed the political crisis, dismissed his nephew’s government and allowed, with the state officials, elections for a new constitutional Assembly in 2013 that ended the crisis. The demonstration of the Arab Spring was relatively less than the other countries. Emir didn’t suppress them by force but provided compensation and eliminated the people’s frustration towards the government.
Historically, Kuwait and Pakistani relations have always been stable and balanced bilaterally. Pakistan also took part in the coalition forces directed to liberate Kuwait. Pakistani engineers also helped Kuwait in the clearance of the mines. Kuwait had provided Pakistan with massive aid to support Kashmir’s people in the 2005 earthquake and pledged $100 million for Pakistan.
Under Sabah’s 14 years reign, the relations of both countries strengthened. Labor agreements between Pak-Kuwait occurred lately in 2019, favoring people on both sides. Kuwait always supported the stance of Pakistan on Kashmir. Kuwait has also announced investment plans in Pakistan strengthening trade partnership. In these COVID days, Pakistani medics reached Kuwait to support and train their health care staff. The number of medical technicians was more than 500. Recently Kuwait announced Aid for Pakistan to keep his health care system. Hence, it shows the deep relations between countries on both sides. The million dollars exhanges, in the form of exports and imports, occur from both sides, and they have plans to expand it on a higher level. On the Emir’s death, FM of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed his sorrow and praised the Emir by saying; he was also a peace-loving and compassionate leader.
Kuwait is an oil-rich country having the sixth-largest oil reserves. The policies of Emir contributed positively to what Kuwait is today. He was a wise man and a personal friend of many Arab leaders. He was trusted worldwide as the promulgator of peace, stability and humanitarian efforts. The UN secretary-general expressed his condolences saying, “He had saved millions of lives by his diplomatic efforts.” He was awarded honorary citizenship and degrees by many countries as a token of appreciation. He never stopped his diplomatic endeavors to avoid crises and restore the balance. His diplomatic expertise allowed him to appoint the second Secretary-General of GCC, an experienced diplomat named Nayeb Al Hajraf, so that Kuwait could play its role as a mediator from regional organization. It was proof that he kept his word for the resolution, not provided the lip service only.
Kuwait is swayed by the legacy and standard of procedure on the international level and created its reputation as a problem solver. He handed a stable country and, to some extent, a balanced region. He laid the country’s foundation as the mediator of any conflict in the area, which Kuwait is ready to play a role. This responsibility now lies in the successors of the late Emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, new Emir of Kuwait, whether he will pursue his predecessor’s policy or choose a different path. New Emir has everything in his hands now. Take his legacy forward or bring his own.