In the backdrop of growing unrest in Arab world, especially in Bahrain and Yemen, growing number of officials from the Gulf countries are visiting Pakistan. Bahrain and Yemen pose a direct threat to the security of Saudi Arabia. PoliTact has been closely monitoring these visits and has previously pointed to the connection between the geopolitics of South Asia and Middle East. This article examines the implications of Pakistan’s position to support monarchs of the Gulf region.
Bahrain’s foreign minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday and met with the President, Prime Minister, and officials of the armed forces. According to media reports, he delivered a special message from the king of Bahrain and his trip was meant to improve the defense relations between the two countries.
In a recent statement, an unnamed Pakistan’s foreign office official stated,
“No doubt that the foreign minister is coming at a critical time when his country is facing chaos and turmoil and he will discuss that situation with Pakistani leaders. However, that does not imply that he will discuss the recruitment of Pakistanis for Bahrain’s security forces.”
The visit of Bahrain’s foreign minister was in a series of high profile meetings between the officials of Gulf countries and Pakistan. These meetings got initiated as the situation of Bahrain and Yemen worsened. It should be noted that the foreign minister’s trip followed Bandar bin Sultan’s visit to Pakistan earlier. Bandar bin Sultan is the General Secretary of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council and carries considerable clout in US. Bandar’s tour was preceded by the visit of Commander of Royal Saudi Land Forces Lieutenant General Abdul Rahman Bin Abdullah Al-Murshid, who met Pakistan’s Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani on March 9th. In late February, President Zardari had travelled to Kuwait to commemorate the nations 50th birthday.
Turmoil in Bahrain’s led to Saudi led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) intervention on March 14. Around 1,500 soldiers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf nations entered Bahrain at the request of the Bahraini government.
There are widely held perceptions that Shiite Iran is trying to destabilize Middle East and expand its influence, a view strongly projected by Israel. Shia opposition of Bahrain demanded on Wednesday that the Saudi-backed armed forces helping to crush demonstrations should leave the country immediately. The demand highlighted the sectarian aspect of the anti-government campaign in this tiny island kingdom, where Shia majority is protesting for more freedom and rights against a Sunni monarch that has been ruling Bahrain for nearly two centuries.
During this crisis, Pakistan has supported the ruling family of Bahrain and the monarchs of the Gulf region. This position is likely to complicate Pakistan’s relations with Iran while slowing progress of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project. Additionally, it would also strain Shia-Sunni relations with in Pakistan and FATA. As US, Israel, and Gulf countries attempt to contain Iran in Middle East, the country has the leverage to counteract by making matters worse in the AfPak region.