While at least five more Muslim nations are considering normalizing relations with Israel, India, a long-time strategic ally of the Jewish State is playing cards from behind the scenes in stopping the Muslim nations in South Asia, including Pakistan following the path of Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. People may question, with the deadly rivalry between India and Pakistan, how it would be possible for New Delhi in exerting influence on Islamabad in sabotaging the possible steps towards establishing relations with Israel – the answer is – India has the capability as it maintains connections with most of the political parties – particularly Pakistan People’s Party and Muslim League either through diplomatic channels or through its spy agency – RAW.
According to the Asia Times, Afrasiab Khattak a politician, intellectual, and Pashtun rights activist told that since the Pervez Musharraf era [1999 to 2008], there has been a consistent behind-the-scenes effort to normalize relations with Israel, though so far without tangible results due to radical religious forces and their ability to stir street agitation.
“When the Arab countries have changed their stand on the Arab-Israel conflict and tried to live in peace with their proverbial foe then what is the point of pursuing an anti-Israel policy?” he asked.
But Pakistani foreign ministry is openly denying the possibility of any initiatives of normalizing relations with Israel. In November 2020, its foreign ministry issued a statement rebutting reports on the mainstream and social media suggesting that Islamabad was poised to restore diplomatic relations with Jerusalem – a move that would send shock waves mostly amongst the radical Islamic groups. It may be mentioned here that, Pakistani populace and radical Islamic groups regularly hold rallies against Israel and in favor of Palestinians.
According to experts of Pakistan affairs, if Pakistan follows the normalized relations with Israel, it would be marked as a historic turn, as Pakistan did not recognize Israel ever since the Jewish State was formed. Pakistani passports, like that of the Bangladeshi ones, still carries a stamp that says – it is valid for all countries in the world except Israel. But now, for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, it would be a timely step if he now follows the Muslim nations in the Middle East and officially comes up with the accouchements of recognizing the Jewish State.
They said, once Pakistani policymakers finally take the bold step towards normalizing relations with Israel, India may play a sabotage game by inciting radical Islamic groups in Pakistani in waging countrywide demonstrations and even vandalism opposing the decision.
It may be mentioned here that, despite its decade-old relations with Israel, policymakers in India maintain extremely cordial diplomatic and economic ties with Palestinians. For this reason, India has never supported any anti-Palestinian resolution in the United Nations.
According to experts on the Middle East affairs, as Saudi Arabia may soon follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing relations with Israel, it would definitely encourage Pakistani policymakers in following the same path as Pakistan’s economy greatly depends on Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Over four million Pakistani expatriates remit around US$4 billion each year from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is equivalent to half of its US$9 billion annual remittances.
Commenting on possible Islamabad-Jerusalem relations, experts say – Pakistan has always maintained covert diplomatic and military connections with Israel. Back in 1970, General Zia-ul-Haq was posted in Jordan as a brigadier general as the Pakistani army was fighting in favor of Jordan against Yasir Arafat-led Palestine in the 1970-71 Black September war.
Former military rule General Parvez Musharraf has been more vocal about his government’s interactions with the Jewish State. During his tenure, the two countries had established their first and formal communications through diplomatic staffs in Ankara and Istanbul to facilitate the exchange of information on defense and terrorism-related issues.
According to a cable published by Wikileaks, in 2009, the Pakistani intelligence agency passed important information to its Israeli counterpart about a plot to kill Israeli nationals in India.
Despite the Pakistani foreign ministry’s denial of its willingness to formally recognizing the Jewish State, experts on South Asian and Middle Eastern Affairs believe – the official announcement of this relationship is just a matter of time. Pakistan surely moving ahead in establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.