A lesson And A Few Reminders

March 12, 2010

By Syed Talat Hussain | Daily Times


The Saudis, in their national interest, can get into a tighter hug with Pakistan’ archenemy without fearing as much as a raised eyebrow in Islamabad, because Saudi Arabia is a giver and Pakistan is a taker

Imagine Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaking to the National Assembly of Pakistan and saying the following: “We seek cooperative relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, vast opportunities will open up for trade travel and development that will create prosperity in both the countries and the Middle East as a whole. But to realise this vision, Saudi Arabia must act decisively and stop supporting terrorists who operate in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority. If Saudi Arabia cooperates with Israel, there is no problem we cannot solve and we walk the extra mile to open up a new chapter in relations between our two countries.”

Even before anyone can say ‘go’, Pakistan shall have all its special economic and diplomatic privileges withdrawn by the illustrious Kingdom, and its entire civil and military leadership summarily summoned and lined up in the King’s court for an explanation and apology. Admitted, Saudi-India relations cannot be equated with the Pakistan-Israel equation, which diplomatically does not exist. But seen from the security point of view, India is to Pakistan what Israel is to Saudi Arabia — a lingering, permanent danger, whose core intent is hostile, whose propaganda is relentless and actions are exceedingly provocative.

Yet, the entire Saudi Majlis al Shoura intently listened to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s usual refrain about Pakistan’s non-cooperation in the field of terrorism, implying this was the main hurdle to peace and prosperity in South Asia. The perfect hosts graciously overlooked the fact that the honourable guest was in gentle violation of the third country rule (no one country’s soil can be used against another country for propaganda), and that he could perhaps have avoided mentioning Pakistan directly while illustrating his vision. But then it would have been silly to put in a tedious spot the representative of a country with whom Saudi Arabia has forged strategic ties, produced by decades of hard diplomatic work, and which now span the varied fields of defence, security, technology, science education and a dozen other areas.

Also, Saudi relations with India are not subject to Delhi passing the Pakistan test. With a burgeoning bilateral trade of over $ 25 billion, Saudi oil sales to Delhi touching $ 3 billion, plus an expatriate community nearing two million set their bilateral relationship on a footing that is self-sustaining and impervious to extraneous considerations. We should not forget that in 2006 the Saudi King Abdullah came to Delhi as a special guest on the country’s Republic Day, which the Kashmiris mark as a black day. There he described India as his second home.

In 2010, the title bestowed on the visiting Indian delegation was “our dearest friends”. Quite naturally, besides inking various agreements, the two were in line with the Riyadh Declaration, issued at the end of the visit: both “discussed the situation in Afghanistan” and found themselves in complete harmony over the road to stability in that broken country, including protecting the people of Afghanistan from “exploitation by the terrorist organisations…” This detailed reference to Afghanistan is seemingly benign, but the two paragraphs do endorse India’s say in Afghanistan — something that Pakistan is completely opposed to.

What does the visit mean for Islamabad? One easy-to-understand lesson, and a few timely reminders. The lesson is that Delhi is pulling its full diplomatic weight to establish an outreach in areas where Islamabad traditionally had an edge. Delhi’s relations with Iran, its presence in Afghanistan and its deepening engagement with China now have a thickening layer of diplomatic initiative on the Saudi front. This throws a ring of soft offensive around Pakistan’s immediate and important zone of influence. In all the friendly capitals, the battle for the hearts and minds is now going to get tougher for Pakistan. India’s defence spending increases, military purchases and its visceral vileness is one part of the challenge facing Pakistan, the other is the expansive nature of India’s proactive, forward-leaning diplomacy that it is increasingly being used to build a case for its stance on terrorism and Pakistan’s role in it.

And now the reminders. One is that the age of ideology in foreign policy is long over. While much of Pakistan’s worldview has become pretty down-to-earth and is immersed in hardcore realism, the hangover of being part of the Ummah continues to hover around like a patch of bad cloud. The visit’s various facets tell us that co-religionists can be perfectly incompatible in the alliances they forge in pursuit of their national interests and there is nothing wrong with this.

The other reminder is that when these interests converge, countries come together, and when these diverge, countries move away from each other. There is no lifelong bonding to any one country, nor can one be beholden to the other.

The third reminder is that economic power is the real foreign policy pedestal of countries. Those who are economically sound can have greater foreign policy room to manoeuvre. Besides size, the one thing going for India in its foreign policy is the state of its economy, which, in turn, is related to the quality of leadership and a national vision projected over decades. With money in its pocket, and glory on its mind, Delhi is capable of heightening its diplomatic surge.

Conversely, this is precisely the reason Pakistan is struggling. It is cash-strapped and is led by a floundering pack. The Saudis, in their national interest, can get into a tighter hug with Pakistan’ archenemy without fearing as much as a raised eyebrow in Islamabad, because Saudi Arabia is a giver and Pakistan is a taker. Oil has made one rich. Its rulers have made the other dole-dependent. And dependence, we know, is a super-stripper of dignity, a destroyer of self-esteem, and a breaker of spines. It ties your hands to your feet and hurtles you down in the abyss of choices that are none better than the other.

Foreign policy is an extension of domestic politics, the economy included. A country that is domestically disturbed can, at best, put up a brave face abroad and not wince when its friends make friends with its enemies. And that is exactly what Pakistan is doing in response to Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia.



  1. i think time has come for pakistan to show that its people and the country as a whole are not beggers. what will happen saudi people will start withdrawing their assests. we know that UAE is involved in destablising the Gawadar port.pakistan can get a lot if it starts cooperation with IRAN that is an ideal country.pakistan hass not been able to start a gaspipe line with iran upto now.saudis cannot do any hell thing as nowadays their say in Arab world is also a big ?:
    pakistan’s foreign policy is a big doubt in herelf. u r supporting india for UN and on other issues so personally i feel that pakistan is giving wrong messages to her friends.
    INDIA IN NO WAY CAN BE FRIEND OF PAKISTAN. This thing must be taught to the media in pakistan espacially to Geo.

  2. today it’s saudi tommorow it’s china ,america already our side then who will give give free weapons and imf money for food .poor pakistan.

    • ( WAIT AND SEE )In coming few months India will face attacks like 27,february 2010. The biggest target for Pakistan and ISI is kick out Indian and RAW from Afghanistan other wise USA,NATO and Mossad will expend their stay in Aghhanistan. Now USA is pushing India for terrorist attack in Pakistan because India is trying to save her 1.3 b$ investment other wise will go drain and USA is getting adventage of this point

    • What the hell is a bloody Indian doing here corrupting PKKH space? Go elsewhere you gutter rat …

    • Sari Dunya tumharay peechhay hai.That is why you are :

      Gay Hind

    • Why are you trying to defend Saudi Arabia ?

      The Saudis stabbed us in the back, all they care about is hunting rights, Saudi Arabia is no threat to Isreal, there both are anti hamas

      Saudi did not help Pakistan to get IMF loan

      Saudi wants to micromanage pakistan and use its land to produce food

      • You don’t hate Saudi Arabia for not helping Pakistan.You hate it for other reasons.If you don’t leave this forum,then…..

        Go and read :

        Surah Alnurain/Mus-haf Fatmi/Surah Walayt.

      • I hate who ever i want to hate im not inlove with any country i am not blind



    • Allah is with us ONLY if we are united and with ourselves. At the current point it seems like we are too divided.

      Allah will not help us just because we are muslims. Allah will help us when we listen to him.

  4. Talat Hussain (along with his brother Riffat Hussain) are good thinkers; however, they’ve missed the fact that the Pakistani intellectuals and the establishment has actually ‘moved on’ from old thinking. If anybody is lagging, it is the political class …..

    They have also missed the fact that Saudi Arabia and Israel are not arch enemies. They have delegations come and go every once in a while which is reported very meekly in the media. Saudi’s couldn’t care less about Palestinians and Hezbollah because they have been blinded by their own well being.

    Btw, Pakistan holds enough cards to give anyone a decapitating migrane headache.

    Our allegiance is with Islam and it holy sites in Makkah and Madina. What happens to Riyadh is not our concern and the Saudi’s know that this is one of our major cards. Pakistan’s mere presence in the region is a defence for regional Islamic countries and that is why they invest in keeping Pakistan strong.

    At this point, I would like to point out that Saudi Arabia’s political system will change *slowly* in the near future as it is not viable anymore. This current one-family Kingdom system is already 150 years old and cracks and fissures have started to appear in the ruling class (again this is open in the media). Also, they will reach the point when they will have to choose between America, Israel and the Muslim world and the future does not look so pretty then. Soon they will be history like many others in the past. This is a fact.

    Makkah and Medina will be saved but not in the hands of these people. Allah will bring more competent people to look after our holy sites.


  6. I don’t think,it is as gloomy as depicted.
    A very strong and honest to Pakistan,leadership will change everything.

    Saudi leadership knows how present leaders in Pakistan,in power or otherwise,are sincere for the country.

    Because of Monarchy,there is a continuity,as far as personalities are concerned,and we had all sorts of characters.Till Musharraf,relations were good.

  7. Its so true. There are no permanent friends when it comes to politics. We need to be strong and rely on our self. May Allah Help us and unite us and forgive us for our missdoings. Ameen.

  8. Talat’s argument carries weight. But Pakistan will never realize its immense potential unless it breaks the shackles of slavery. With the calibre of leadership we have now and in the recent past, that is just wishful thinking. We will keep looking down the barrel of the gun unless we arrest this decline and poverty of leadership. We as a nation cannot be absolved of the sins of or leadership, we are equally and even more responsible. As for India, its nature is like that of a woman in the neighborhood who goes around every house complaining about its neighbor but will not talk to the neighbor. Its a cheap little country aspiring to be a superpower.

  9. Pakistan must start from its own borders and build relationships from there. I think there is a enormous potential for a great Pak-o-Iran relationship and we should seriously expand our relations with Central Asia. We have deep cultural, historical and religious ties with this region.

    But most importantly: Un-Islamabad MUST stop begging every crawling creature for money. The government must focus on internal wealth generation something which has been neglected for too long.

    Yaar, mujjay itna dokh hota hai jabb yeh loog Pakistan ka janda istemaal kar kay USA, EU our Japan say bheekh maang rahay hotay hain.

    • Iran itself is in a state of turmoil,after elections and Central Asian states are not dependable.

  10. the author is wrong about one thing

    manmohan singh is within his rights to request china and saudi to put pressure on pak to stop terrorism

  11. nature of traitors is same be it pakistanis (politicians, army, etc.) or saudis (so called kings, scholars, etc.) in the end inshaAllah their end will also be same —the violent end.

    • You missed Iran in this list.

  12. We need leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who can put Pakistan’s point of view in strong and no uncertain terms. Check out this video:

    • Jeeya Bhutto !!!!!

      How Dare Saudi Arabia talk about Pakistans internal Affairs with India

  13. Here’s one more:

    • All we need is to turn back to our deen and be sincere and stronge in our belief on Allah, the whole world will be in our feet…..

      • Money, economy, freinds, enimies and leaders are not our problems, our problems start with in our selves and ends with ourselves. Think about it….

      • You talk of Islam.Bhotto refused to be burried with a beard!

  14. And one more:

    • But he gave a very ig choice to the nation:

      If you want to save Pakistan,get your legs broken.and those cowards feared from breaking legs,broke Pakistan.

  15. And here’s an example of leaders that we don’t need:

  16. Or like this:

  17. Saudi’s must not forget that they have Pak’s back thats why they are standing strong… although they have oil and mountains of gold but they must not forget that, the assets they jump on are of whole Muslim Ummah not for just royal families to spend on their lavish lifestyles.
    Saudi’s looking at the high way but they must also understand one thing their are very less turn-abouts on the high-way.

  18. We certainly need leaders like bhutto who not only gave pakistan respect in the world in general and islamic world in particular. We have to prove to the world that we are one nation and not baluchi, sindhi, punjabi, kashmiri or pakhtoons but muslims and pakistanis. We need dignity and reliance on Allah Subhana. Bhutto was the one who brought pakistan back to the foot after deep depression of 1971 and lead us to develope nuclear. The these Saudis saluted pakistan why? because it earned respect of pakistan in their eyes that our muslim brothers are strong and technologically advace nation now who can talk to the other nations looking in their eyes who have nuclears. It was a big achievement as pakistan was only the seventh nation of the world who did this while many others were trying unsuccessfully. This stunned the world but what happened afterwards that we were divided into four nationalities firstly baluchi, pathans, sindhi, punjabi then further division into casts such as urdu speaking, arains, chaudhrys, mians, and so on so forth. Dear brothers we have to be one to earn respect and make pakistan a great country and what makes us one is our deen-e-islam. Now india is blasting bombs in our cities and rather than exposing the hindus once again our so called leaders such as mr. kaira is saying that people are not condemning these religious organisation that are doing these blasts. Mr. Kaira should know that no islamic organisation would do such an act killing muslims after prayer this is only done by RAW who has been doing that to us for so long. Why don’t you talk about it. Talk sensible and earn respect.

    • Rightly said! There is lack of leadership. It’s the failed diplomacy of Pakistan creating vacuum that is allowing India take advantage. We are willing to please the American Bastard 8500 Miles away from us but don’t work with our immediate neighbors. We are certainly in no position to dictate the Saudis to even mind if they are improving their relations with India. It is their right & it’s business. Pakistan should mend it’s ways and sort things out at home first before we expect others to support us. We should increase our strategic ties with China. Work more aggressively to get our stake in Afghanistan, if Saudis can sit with the Indias, then why are we shying to sit with the Iranians? Engage India back on to dialogue the way we used to instead of cursing others that they didnt support us. What is our leadership offering them? Protection is a two way business, they pay us for it! we are not doing it out of love for the saudis! In recent times we have proved we are International Mercenaries! Sell outs! to the highest bidders. What’s happening today in Pakistan is an war of the west & the regional players for the sake of securing their economical interests and if they have to divide Pakistan, they’ll do it! Where do we stand? Can we offer them Economical security in return of getting a slice from the cake? No! we have our own differences amongst ourselves and our political leadership is only hungry for power! We slept all this time and pursuing the wrong agenda! The world is using the fanatics to play with our emotions regarding our Religion & now using it against us in forms of insurgencies in Pakistan or Terrorist Organizations posing as Jehadis! We have the Axes of GREED sitting on our borders and we are thinking that they have Pakistan in their site due to Islam only! It’s a multi multi game with Islam just a minor issue. They have all Islamic states divided due to Economics. Same way Gulf / India / US will not allow us to develop as we are Gateway to the Energy Corridor going to China & Central Asia & India! West want their stake, with China & India looking after their own interests, No one willing to work with Iran & the Saudis happy because of all this tension they are the only stable market fulfilling the Energy hunger. Think about it & change you way of thinking. Cursing & just be involved in bashing others based on words only is not going to serve any purpose. Develop & follow a leader who has the vision to take us through this tough time!

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