In May 1990 Yemen came into being after merger of the Yemen Arab Republic with the People’s Democratic Republic of South Yemen. The popular uprising of Yemeni Houthis has plunged the country and region in deep crisis. The US now suddenly realizing the need of political settlement in Yemen appear to have gone on back foot.Evacuated Pakistanis have warned on media that any direct intervention will prove to be another blunder. In 2003, the US withdrew most of its troops from Saudi Arabia, though one unit still remains.
In 2005, King Abdullah’s first foreign trip was to China. In 2012 a Saudi-Chinese agreement to cooperate in the use of atomicenergy for peaceful purposes was signed. Abdullah also welcomed Russian president Vladimir Putin to Riyadh in 2007, awarding him the kingdom’s highest honour, the King Abdul Aziz Medal. Russia and Saudi concluded a joint venturebetween Saudi ARAMCO and LUKOIL to develop new Saudi gas fields.
As with the US Saudi Arabia has had a longstanding relationship with Pakistan as well. During the 1990s both provided extensive financial and political support to the Taliban and the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. During the Persian Gulf War, Pakistan sent troops to protect the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Along with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were the only states to recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In May 1998, Saudi Arabia was the only country that was taken in complete confidence by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Pakistan’s decision on performing atomic tests in the region of the Chagai Hills. After he ordered theatomic tests Saudi Arabia, along with United Arab Emirates, were the only countries to back Pakistan and congratulated the country for making the “bold decision”. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia promised to supply 50,000 barrels per day of free oil to help Pakistan cope with likely economic sanctions in the aftermath.
Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms and training for the Saudi Arabian military. Fighter Pilots of the Pakistan Air Force flew aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force to repel an incursion from South Yemen in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, approximately 15,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in the kingdom.
Now with the change in world power equation and the Arab world standing up against cultural and economic westernisation and with the role of US diminishing of the influence Saudi Arabia is on the back foot as well. US is trying to counter its loss of influence by concluding an agreement with Iran.
Today the international situation has changed and Pakistan has to find a place in the new world order. That means we have to rearrange our foreign relations and policy as well. Pakistan has recently improved its relations with its neighbours Afghanistan and Iran. We are a solid partner in the process that is meant to bring peace to our region and we should not endanger peace in our part of the world by estranging relations with Iran. Pakistan has no interests in Yemen; therefore, it has to make very clear that it would not be in our national interest to join the coalition against Yemen. Such move would not only damage our relations with Iran but upset the volatile peace in our own country. Let at least this time reason prevail! God bless Pakistan and humanity.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi..