Paradoxically, Pakistan and Israel can never have relations; nevertheless, there are many commonalities between both the countries. In geopolitical studies, both countries have been identified as the ‘Rim-land’ or parts of the ‘inner crescent’ in Mackinder and Mahan’s theories for being gateways to the Heartland, Central Asia. Both countries have proximity to the oil producing Gulf States and dominate the sea routes from different directions. Both are narrow countries having lesser strategic depths as compared to their hostile large neighbors. The geopolitical importance of both countries, although having different dynamics, is significantly important to the extent that both the regions in which they are situated have been identified as ‘nuclear flash points’. Besides both countries being nuclear powers, have comparatively smaller and well-trained armies as compared to their strong neighbor(s) and had numerous military conflicts with them in the past. Both the countries have been constituted on religious ideologies even though these are diverse. Both countries also have unresolved agendas on the charter of UNO in the shape of Kashmir and Palestine issues. The dynamics of these problems are however different; Pakistan being a victim with regard to Kashmir and Israel an aggressor with reference to the Palestine problem. Finally both countries got independence from the yoke of British Empire with only a year’s difference.
So why can’t they have any relations; this fact has to be attributed towards a singular factor, conflicting religious ideologies. Israel being an ideological state, her illegal occupation of Golan Heights and West Bank emanates from their religious doctrine of the “Promised Land” to which they lay claim based on what is mentioned in their holy scriptures. On the other hand, Pakistan being a Muslim ideological state, besides having strong reservations about Israeli atrocities in Palestine, also has an ideological constitution due to which the strong religious establishment is not in favor of keeping any relationship with Israel. This is based on their interpretation of the Quranic injunction which stipulates that friendship with ‘yahood o Nasara’ i.e. Jews and Christians is forbidden. Additionally, Pakistan tends to unilaterally always follow the stance of Arab countries, in order not to risk their annoyance. Thus despite the lack of any real political issues between the two countries, the incompatibility of religious ideologies, precludes any relationship.
Israel fought four wars with her neighbors; Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The latter two although being Muslim Arab countries having being involved in the conflict with Israel for more than three decades, finally realized that these wars had been the greatest impediments in their economic development due to which the population had been adversely suffering. They therefore decided to establish good relations with Israel by recognizing it and got on to the path of economic well-being. Additionally, President Qaddafi of Libya is also believed to have been struggling for the same purpose during his regime. The covert endeavors of the rest of the Arab Countries for having relations with Israel are also not secret. Thus the Arab Countries, immediate neighbors of Israel and therefore geographically affected, despite being Muslim countries that had been at war with Israel, have either recognized Israel or have clandestine relationships with her in their best political interests.
Kashmir is the unresolved agenda on the UN charter for the last about 68 years or so. The great sacrifice of about 100,000 Muslims and abuse of women in the hands of Indian occupation forces have gone unnoticed by the comity of nations, rather they have kept a deaf year towards the Indian genocide of Kashmiri’s. Pakistan’s foreign policy has more than one center of gravities, i.e. India and Israel. Thus Pakistan’s endeavors with regard to the Kashmir problem are divided. The vagueness of the foreign policy is evident from the fact that in the OIC’s meetings; it is practically impossible for Pakistan to get the Kashmir problem included in the joint statement. As for Arab countries, they have shown little concern towards Kashmir problem, as they are more interested to have good relations with India for economic reasons. On the other hand, they expect Pakistan to take a hard line vis a vis Israel due to their atrocities on the Palestinians. Pakistan has obliged to the extent that her citizens are forbidden from visiting Israel, thus denying them the right to visit their Qibla e Awal.
Pakistan’s orthodox approach on the Kashmir solution has already been proved to be unproductive and futile in the past 68 years. Although militarily, during last four wars fought between the two countries, Pakistan was very close to capturing Kashmir twice but due to lack of political support at the global level, it failed to do so. Thus the Kashmir solution would not be a military one rather a political one. Ironically, India is not ready to leave a single inch of Kashmir and is not ready to comply with the UN Resolutions or even the Simla Accord, which she fervently professes, but practical bilateral talks are also sabotaged by them on one pretext or the other. The question is how India is managing all this? India has very strong lobbies in USA; these lobbies mainly consist of influential senators, lawmakers, think tanks and economists etcetera who are mostly Jews. They extend all out support to India for Pakistan’s antagonist posture towards Israel. Thus Pakistan’s perception on Kashmir although based on reality is given a deaf ear. On the other side Pakistan has failed to assert itself due to its bifocal foreign policy as mentioned above.
In Pakistan, there is a whispering school of thought that debates the potential benefits that might accrue from a Pak-Israeli rapprochement. In their opinion, in the absence of any economic interests of Israel in India, given the choice between India and Pakistan, definitely Israel would go for the latter, since Pakistan besides being the singular Muslim nuclear power is also a leading Muslim country and has its influence on the Arab countries. In their opinion, Israel would be interested for Pakistan to play the role of a facilitator with Arab countries on the same pattern as the role played by Pakistan in facilitating the historical rapprochement between USA and China. In such an eventuality, Pakistan, in turn, could use the support of the strong Jewish lobbies in USA for the resolution of the Kashmir problem. Additionally, these people also believe that the Quranic Injunction only refers to prohibition of having intimate and trusting relationships with Jews and not for having working political relationship with them. This is especially so, when the ‘Nasara’ part of the Quranic injunction in the shape of friendship with the Christian world, the West is widely accepted. Thus having no differences with Israel and having the American lobbies in favor, Pakistan could finally have a focused foreign policy on the Kashmir problem, and potentially achieve a viable solution to this problem.
Pakistan has an Islamic constitution, which has to be respected on all cost. The question is while remaining within the Quranic injunctions; can a working relationship with Israel be established or otherwise? This is the food for thought for the Pakistani politicians, religious scholars, think tanks, establishment and the government. It’s time for Pakistan to re-evaluate its International Relations priorities while remaining within the ambit of teachings of Islam and the global political requirements of today.
The writer is a retired Lieutenant Colonel.
Pak-Israel Relations | Lt Col Khalid Masood Khan (Retd)