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Thursday, May 25, 2017
Why the Trump-Led Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia Was a Disaster for Pakistan
With this in mind, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent the entire duration of his flight to Riyadh rehearsing his address to the summit, which included leaders of 55 Muslim-majority states. It was time to drive home Islamabad’s perspective on countering Islamist terrorism – the theme of the event – considering Pakistan’s unique role as both victim and counterterrorism proponent. Raheel Sharif heads the counterterror militia, and the country is fourth on the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the most affected states.
Yet Nawaz Sharif wasn’t invited to address the summit. Neither was Raheel Sharif.
It very well might not have been his intention, but by singling out India alone as a victim of terror among the South Asian states, Trump upheld New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir, and completely shelved Pakistan’s claims of “India-sponsored terrorism,” specifically in the volatile province of Balochistan.
This would’ve been a setback at most gatherings, but for the U.S.-Saudi leadership to silence Pakistan’s narrative at an “Islamic” summit was particularly damaging, considering that Islamabad has long held Islam as a foreign policy tool and has based its support for the Kashmiri struggle on religious affiliation as well.
And as Pakistan’s immediate neighbors accuse it of supporting terrorism, the snub for Pakistan at a counterterror conference, hosted by the country that Islamabad is going out of its way to protect against the much-touted “Shia crescent,” means that there are no buyers for Pakistan’s narrative on its role against terrorism.
Despite Saudis talking up Pakistan as a “leader of Muslim Ummah” whenever they need military support, Riyadh has never backed Islamabad’s stance on Kashmir, or even condemned Kabul for what Pakistan portrays as Indian voodoo forcing Afghanistan to act out against a “Muslim brother.” In fact Saudi Arabia has multiple defense agreements with India – the country Islamabad claims is responsible for funding terrorism in Pakistan.
While Washington sidelining Islamabad following Trump’s election was long coming, it is the continued lack of Saudi support at the international level that has reduced Pakistan’s status for the Kingdom of al-Saud to that of a security guard, without any contribution in narratives.
If Islamabad still needs a reason to abandon Islam as a foreign policy determinant, it only needs to look at its relations with its “Muslim brothers” in the neighborhood, and the consistent Saudi refusal to even allow Pakistan a say in the global Muslim narrative.