Kashmir-obsessed Pak picks fight with Saudi Arabia, set to pay dearly

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

New Delhi (NVI): Pakistan is frustrated over the lack of international support, especially from Muslim countries, to its rant on Kashmir. And it is showing and taking a dangerous turn for the country.

The frustration in Pakistan has reached such a level that it has resorted to spoiling its relations with its traditional ally and supporter Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi recently made a stinging attack on Saudi Arabia, the most influential Muslim country on whose doles and loans much of Pakistan’s dilapidated economy runs.

Qureshi poured his anger against Saudi Arabia for its refusal to convene a meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the Kashmir situation in the aftermath of abolition of its special status in August last year.

Ever since applicability of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was removed on August 5 last year, Pakistan has been desperately trying to rake it up at various international platforms, like the UN and OIC but without any success.

Pakistan, through its ‘all-weather friend’ China, tried to get the Kashmir issue raised at the UN Security Council thrice during the last one year but on all the three occasions, most of the members of the world body refused to get involved, maintaining that it should be addressed bilaterally by India and Pakistan.

It has also been desperately pleading for convening of a meeting of the OIC to discuss the Kashmir issue but Saudi Arabia, which holds considerable influence in the 57-nation grouping of Islamic nations, has been blocking it.

Pakistan had, in February, sought a meeting of the OIC on the Kashmir developments but Saudi Arabia turned down the request.

Imran Khan subsequently said, “.. we have no voice and there is a total division amongst (us). We cannot even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir.”

Otherwise also, no country around the world, except Turkey and briefly Malaysia, has paid heed to Pakistan’s hue and cry over the developments in Jammu and Kashmir.

Faced with this all-round failure, the Imran Khan government has earned immense wrath at home, with his rivals, especially the extremists, using the issue to term his dispensation weak, visionless and directionless.

Khan’s rivals, particularly the rabid groups and elements, are questioning why the Pakistan government failed to anticipate and then scuttle the government of India’s move to abolish Article 370 in J&K. His government is being slammed for failing to mobilise international support against India over the issue.

This pressure led to the angry outburst by Qureshi against Saudi Arabia. While attacking the powerful Arab nation, he threatened that Pakistan would quit OIC and float a new bloc of Islamic nations. He even went to the extent of playing the Nuclear card, saying Pakistan is the only Islamic country possessing a nuclear bomb and its exit from OIC would have serious ramifications.

In a TV interview, Qureshi said, “I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir.”

The show’s host asked if it meant moving forward without Saudi Arabia, Qureshi replied that Pakistan will proceed “with or without” Saudi Arabia.

Qureshi’s worst-ever outburst against Saudi Arabia came after a series of comments by Pakistani officials and leaders against its attitude over the Kashmir issue. Saudi Arabia, instead of coming to Pakistan’s support, has been strengthening ties with India, politically and economically. While Pakistan has been pleading for support, Saudi Arabia has been signing petroleum and other deals worth billions with India.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia has started hitting Pakistan where it hurts the most — the economy. The Arab nation, which had given a loan of 3 billion dollars to Pakistan, has demanded return of the money and in fact, made it pay back 1 billion dollars already.

Pakistan has also been refused oil supplies by Saudi Arabia on deferred payments.

In February last year, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Muhammad bin Salman, during his visit to Islamabad, had signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to the tune of 20 billion dollars.

Pakistani analysts worry that Pakistan’s attack against Saudi Arabia could endanger the investments from the Arab nation and hurt its economy, which is already in extremely bad shape.

Significantly, it is not only Saudi Arabia which has given a muted response to change of status of Jammu and Kashmir last year, but even UAE, another influential Arab nation, dubbed it as India’s “internal matter”.

Going forward, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Zayed Al Nahyan even conferred the highest civilian award on Prime Minister Narendra Modi just days after abolition of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.