Pak-Arab co-operation is natural

Javed Hafeez
Close co-operation with Arab nations is an abiding principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Centuries’ old spiritual links, a shared desire to enhance regional security and achieve popular level economic prosperity are factors that provide a solid base to this co-operative spirit. Arab countries have recently passed through rifts and civil strife in the wake of the Arab Spring. Some countries, like Syria and Libya, have been severely damaged. Their infrastructure needs immediate repair. Iraq has been weakened through a war that was hardly necessary. The Arab Gulf nations remained safe, largely due to the sagacity of their leaders.
Our region is passing through an important time in history. A momentous change is underway in Afghanistan. Pakistan has played a key role for peace in the neighboring country. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is actively involved in efforts for a peaceful settlement in Yemen. Both Iraq and Pakistan are playing their roles to lower tensions in the Gulf region. It is important that our region remains peaceful to ensure the safety and security of seaborne trade and travel of pilgrims with peace of mind, to focus on their prayers. To ensure those essential objectives, it is necessary that nations of our region hold regular consultations and continue their security co-operation.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Fuad Hussein visited Pakistan recently to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. FM Qureshi had earlier visited Iraq in May this year. So this was a return visit, in quick succession. During the visit, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to institutionalize bilateral political dialogue. The Pakistani side also expressed its desire to open a consulate at Najaf. Pakistan army has fought a successful war against terrorists at its western border. Both nations do not want to lower their guards against terrorist organizations like Daesh or Al Qaeda.
Lt. General Fayyadh bin Hameed Al Rowdily, Chief of General Staff of the Royal Saudi Armed Forces visited Pakistan last week. He called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and met General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army chief. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his support to resolve the Yemen crisis through dialogue and diplomacy and appreciated Saudi efforts in that regard. Mr. Khan also said that the people of Pakistan have always accorded special reverence for the Saudi leadership. The visiting general appreciated the role of Pakistan’s armed forces in successfully combating terrorism.
Our region has been in the eye of the storm for a long time. The destroyed infrastructure in Iraq, Yemen and Syria will have to be rebuilt. While the international community in general and the GCC countries, in particular, may be requested by affected nations to financially support the reconstruction effort, Pakistan should be able to provide skilled and semi-skilled labor needed for this gigantic work. Many Pakistani engineers and workers have the requisite experience, having worked in GCC member states.
The style and conduct of war are undergoing change. They rely more on propaganda, through media in general and social media in particular. Cyber and drone attacks are already redefining the conduct of wars and defence. But when all is said and done, the foot soldier has not yet been replaced by robots. In this ever-evolving scenario, Pakistan and its Arab friends need to consult regularly in political and defence matters.
Pakistan is a nuclear power and is committed to peaceful uses of nuclear technology. It could share the uses of nuclear technology in medical and agricultural fields. Pakistan has no political agenda in the Arab World. Its standing policy has been that of respect for Arab consensus, on all issues.
Now, the international political scene is in flux. While the United States is still the eminent power in the world, its prestige has taken a dent in Afghanistan. It may take it a while to repair that dent. However, the US has been trying to pivot to the Pacific, in order to contain an emerging superpower, China. Moreover, geo-economics is challenging geopolitics around the globe. Climate change is making environmental protection a global issue. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have already launched ambitious environmental improvement programmes. Our world is shifting to alternate sources of energy in order to limit carbon emissions. Pakistan and the Arab World can mutually benefit from the experience gained on this new frontier of knowledge.
Pak-Arab co-operation is natural and there are multiple avenues to practice it. Eternal vigilance is required to protect political freedoms and to sagaciously use them for economic prosperity.