Sunday, September 04, 2005

Israel and Pakistan

I was a bit suspicious regarding past and now recent diplomatic feelers put out by Pakistan towards Israel. One of the world’s largest Muslim countries, Pakistan was never a direct combatant against Israel, but a lot of the rhetoric emanating from Pakistan was of the anti-Semitic paranoid variety.

Now I realize that my suspicions were misplaced and childish. Indeed, I’ve long been fond of telling people that there’s no such things as friends in international relations, only interests. For some reason I forgot that important point because upon hearing about the latest meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, my cynicism kicked in.

The Pakistanis are worried about Israel and India’s growing military alliance, I thought. Or, maybe the Pakistanis think relations with Israel will take pressure off of them and improve their relations with Washington? Yes, I really did forget the old IR dictum.

There is nothing wrong with Pakistan wanting relations with Israel for its own purposes and perceived best interests—that’s how the game is played. This elementary point was hammered into my thick skull in large part by reading the huge volume of reader’s comments at the Jerusalem Post, which you can read here. A lot of the contributors made some great points that I had overlooked.

For example, Israel’s relations with India are very important, but wouldn’t improved Israeli-Pakistani relations irk India and run the risk of harming the relationship? Maybe, but probably not. As one of the Pakistani contributors pointed out, India has close relations with most Arab countries, as well as Iran, so surely Israel can have relations with Pakistan.

Here is a potential benefit for Israel that I haven’t heard discussed:

If we take into account that Israel already has full diplomatic relations with three Arab countries as well as an ongoing dialogue with the Palestinians, relations with Pakistan will isolate Iran by highlighting Iran’s anachronistic and belligerent stance vis-à-vis Israel. The more isolated Iran is, the better. Israel and Iran had diplomatic relations until the Islamic revolution in 1979. Since then Iran has become one of Israel’s most implacable foes, and if it becomes a nuclear power, will become Israel’s greatest existential threat.

Both Israel and Pakistan have a lot to gain by having diplomatic relations. Without getting overly excited and misty eyed, I completely support this potential new relationship.

Now I can finally enjoy my sole Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan CD without feeling guilty!


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