It is not known how the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince would have gone off at levels that were dealing with the visit and interacting with the visitor. Going through the newspapers and viewing television, it might not have been as successful as desired. One of the main reasons might have been the overwhelming emphasis that was laid on declaring Pakistan a terror state.
To begin with the manner in which the Saudi Prince was received must have been perceived by him as deferential seeing India’s size and its standing in the world. It was duly taken note of. Possibly it was gratifying but it would also lead to an appreciation that the Crown Prince had the upper hand in his dealings with the Indian Prime Minister. This is also the impression that many Indians might have got, not to speak of foreign governments and their representatives in India.
Making condemnation of Pakistan the topmost item on the agenda was a mistake. Surely, the MEA and the PM would have known that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been joined at the hip since Pakistan was created. No two states are closer than these two. During his visit to Pakistan, the Crown Prince said that for all Saudis Pakistanis were the closest of friends. The Saudi-Pakistan relationship is closer than that Islamabad has with America or China. Our diplomats, many of whom have been close to the Saudis, would know that Saudi Arabia has been subsidising oil shipments to Pakistan for a long time.
Pakistan’s nuclear programme right from inception was largely financed by Libya and Saudi Arabia. The headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board in Lahore are at Gaddafi Stadium. It is the home of Pakistan cricket team. It was named after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Pakistan was financed by these two Arab countries.
Being the principal equity-holders of the Pakistani venture both expected access to nuclear know-how and weapons when the need arose. The Libyan issue was peacefully resolved when its leader offered to give up his nuclear weapons in December 2003 and to open his facilities for inspection. He paid the price for his decision a few years later. Libya continues to be in turmoil, no one knowing when and how it will end.
Saudi Royals who visited Pakistan in the past were shown around top-secret nuclear facilities. They know that the guardians of the nuclear weapons hold them in trust for the Guardians of Islam’s holy sites. It makes each side indispensable to the other. Additionally, Pakistan military has traditionally been deployed in Saudi Arabia for providing close protection to the Saudi royals. It has varied from a division to a brigade. General Raheel Shareef the former Army chief of Pakistan Army has been co-opted by Saudi Arabia to head the Gulf military force that has been raised. He would be privy to everything to do with Saudi defence, their weapons holding, projected intake and state of readiness. He would be a trusted adviser in this regard.
Iran felt that it was obliged to go in for its nuclear capability on account of these threats to its existence in addition to the threat posed by Israel and its ally, the US. That is why it can never trust Pakistan even when relations appear to be cordial.
Reverting to India making the question of Pakistani terrorism the main plank of its discussions, and for the Crown Prince to go along with his hosts to declare his close ally a sponsor of terrorism was a demand that no Saudi royal would have acceded to no matter how terrible the outrage. It was beyond the Prince’s ken to do so.
At the end Indian diplomats and leaders should know that world leaders expect that India having the fastest growing economy in the world and looking to be an important player on the global stage should be able to take care of its own military problems with its troublesome neighbor. No doubt it would like to take all possible measures to isolate Pakistan in world forums. However, shrill denunciation at every forum has become painful to hear for most listeners.
The world is fed up with constant bickering between the two nations at the UN since the last 70 years. Today many countries around the world are exposed to terrorism, mainly by radicalised Muslims affiliated to Al Qaeda and lately ISIS. In Afghanistan and in Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Kashmir Valley, terrorists are backed, trained and supplied sophisticated weapons and explosive devices by the Pakistan military, the ISI and the tanzeems in Pakistan that have proliferated. Every attack needs to be condemned.
Foreign governments do take note of every such attack, especially between nuclear neighbours. Pakistan’s denials have no credibility anywhere. Friendly powers have been offering help to India by way of shared intelligence and by several other means. That is why Pakistan’s financial aid has been cut off.
India’s purpose in this regard is being served. It must now make its calls for declaring its western neighbor a terrorist state in a more sophisticated and quiet manner.
(The writer, a retired Major General of the Indian Army, is an observer of international affairs)