THE foreign policy of Pakistan has been dynamic and farsighted right from its emergence as an independent state in 1947. The Muslim countries and Middle Eastern region have been the primary focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Having a cordial relationship with all Muslim countries has been the most salient feature of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Keeping in view, the ideological nature of Pakistani origin, friendly relationship with Muslim world was included in the constitution of Pakistan. For the past seven decades, Pakistan religiously practiced this aspect in its foreign policy pursuits. It continued practicing an exceptional and symphonic relationship with all Muslim states. Since bulks of the Muslim states are situated in Middle Eastern region therefore, this area remained the primary focus of Pakistan’s external relations. Over the years, involvement of major powers and rival states of Pakistan in the regional politics of Middle East has greatly influenced the foreign policies of the regional countries of the Middle East. Unfortunately, the huge diplomatic corps of Pakistan could not correctly appreciate the impact of external involvement in the domestic politics of Middle Eastern regional states. While the rival states of Pakistan were making inroads into the region, the Pakistani diplomatic and political elites remained mysteriously silence. This secretive quietness of decision makers in Pakistan allowed the rival states of Pakistan like India to establish itself in broader Muslim states of Middle East.
While establishing the Indian clout in Middle East, the Indian policy makers adopted three pronged approach. One; India chose to enter the region through its well-trained Muslim population. This strategy was adopted to deceive the traditional conservative character of the Middle Eastern society and ruling elites, who preferred Muslims as the work forces in their countries. After finding broader acceptability for Indians, the large Hindu population started pouring into the region with larger and ulterior motives. Two; India attracted the wealthy countries of the Middle East for heavy investment in India, promising larger incentives. Through this strategy, India created jobs market for its huge unemployed class at home, besides sending its huge manpower in Middle East. Three; Indian Diaspora focused on the business and trade sector of the Middle Eastern states. Today, bulk of the hoteling, industry, tourism, oil companies and even the local markets are run by Indian Diaspora in entire Middle East. In UAE, Indian Diaspora constitutes 25% of its total population. Over 70% financial activities of UAE are being control by Indians. Situation in other countries of the Middle East is almost the same. Slowly and gradually, the Indian Diaspora is entering into the educational system and state functionaries of the Middle Eastern states. Besides, the engineering and construction sectors of the regional states are also being controlled by Indian expatriates.
Before sending its expatriates in Middle East, India trained its masses on three aspects; expertise in relevant skills, promotion of Indian nationalism and ingress to influence for attainment of long-term national objectives of India. The Indian Government takes full sponsorship and responsibility of their expatriates with a tight monitoring system through its spying network. They are under strict social security and insurance system. This well organized and increasing India influence in the Middle East has rapidly constrained the space for Pakistani Diaspora, who have been working in the region since 1960s without Government patronage. Most of the Pakistani expatriates in Middle East are low level labourer class, who are untrained, unskilled and fit to under-take the menial and humiliating jobs. Then there is no social security for Pakistani labourer class, nor do they fall under the sponsorship of the Government of Pakistan. Thousands of Pakistanis are languishing in the jails of Middle Eastern countries for decades now and no one is there to rescue them. The international political system is driven by power politics. The countries whose leadership has the foresight, vision, long-term strategies and above all, the better understanding of international politics work in advance. They trained their Diaspora to make inroads, create acceptability, influence the local authorities and reach to the driving seats of key areas in the first phase. Subsequently, they substantiate their initial gains through diplomatic and political engagements. Since the Diaspora had already made a positive image, therefore the later doorway through diplomatic corps and political engagements is peaceful to be materialized.
The traditionally strong bonds in the foreign policy of Pakistan and the Middle Eastern states, seems eroding with each passing day. This is a damaging trend and needs serious reconsiderations at the level of Pakistani state, society and institutions. After all, there must have been inattention and susceptibilities which were exploited by the rival forces to the disadvantage of traditional partners (Pakistan and Middle Eastern region). Besides, abovementioned factors, the Middle Eastern countries might have reoriented their foreign policies with fresh objectives and transformed priorities. This seems obvious from the recent developments, taking place in the regional politics of Middle Eastern states. Nevertheless, the geopolitics of Pakistan, its traditional connections with the countries of the region and social acquaintances between the masses still makes Pakistan a very relevant and needed state for Middle Eastern region. The Government must initiate re-engagement policies with the countries of Middle East with pride, dignity and respect. Apart from Pakistan, such an initiative will benefit the Middle Eastern states on long-term basis. In this regards, there is a need for major foreign policy review while considering the new ground realities in the regional politics of Middle East. As a nuclear Muslim state with highly professional military and strategically location, Pakistan cannot remain aloof from the developments, taking place in its immediate neighbourhood and traditionally compassionate Muslim countries.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.