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Saudi prince’s Narasimha Rao moment

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 8, 2018

Ten days have passed since the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman in a sensational interview with Time magazine recognized Israel’s right to exist and talked up future ties between the two countries. MBS hinted at the possibility of cooperation with Israel, adding the caveat that “we have to have a peace agreement (between Israel and the Palestinians) to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

Ten days are enough to shake the world – Bolshevik Revolution in Russia took only that long. By now MBS’s statement should have set the Muslim Middle East on fire, since after all, he is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and is destined to be the future Custodian of the Holy Places. On the contrary, there has been no violent reaction in the Islamic world to MBS’ extraordinary remarks.

Could this be his “Narasimha-Rao moment”? In India too, there was some agonizing when Prime Minister Rao took the decision in 1992 to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The conventional wisdom was that there might be a political backlash from the Indian Muslim community. But nothing of the sort happened. And over the years the Indian political elite not only got adapted to the Israel ties but took to it with gusto once it became apparent that the Palestine issue was passé in the Indian public opinion.

Clearly, Rao made a shrewd assessment of the gains and losses. MBS too must have done that since the Saudis and Israelis have been having sub-soil contacts for a while already. There is every reason to anticipate that the Saudi-Israeli political ties are transforming. The big question is, if Saudi Arabia takes the lead, how long can the rest of the Muslim Middle East hold back?

The other Persian Gulf oligarchies will take the cue from MBS. The UAE, in particular, is already trudging the same path – if anything, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, also called MBZ, is somewhat ahead of MBS (whom he reportedly mentors.) Egypt already has diplomatic ties with Israel and Jordan always kept communication lines open to Israel. Qatar too has had dealings with Israel. The so-called “Shi’ite Crescent” (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) may be an exception, while Turkey is regarded as an “outsider” by the Arab countries.

What about Pakistan? There has always been an opinion among the Pakistani elite that Islamabad should pragmatically deal with Israel. The former dictator Pervez Musharraf has brazenly spoken about the desirability of Pakistan having dealings with Israel in mutual interest. Interestingly, in August 2016, Pakistani and Israeli air force jets (plus the UAE air force) took part in the annual “Red Flag” war simulation exercise hosted by the US at the Nellis Air Force base in Nevada as part of advanced combat training exercise.

The Red Flag is regarded as the biggest and best simulation of war in the world. Interestingly, in 2015, the air forces of the United States, Israel, Singapore and Jordan had participated in the Red Flag and it was reported at that time that Israeli planes had even refueled the Jordanian fighter jets in the air, on the way to the US.

Some degree of proximity between Pakistan and Israel can be expected to develop in the downstream of the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement, especially if it blossoms as a quasi-alliance (which seems highly likely in a near-term scenario). To be sure, it will not escape Israel’s notice that the Islamic Military Alliance created by the Saudis has the former Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif as its commander-in-chief. Significantly, during his interview with Indian media while visiting Delhi recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to be drawn into public discussions regarding the Modi government’s “surgical strikes” against Pakistan, hinting evasively that Israel and Pakistan kept rules of mutual conduct.

Netting the big fish in the Islamic ocean has always been a foreign-policy priority for Israel. (We tend to overlook that Judaism and Islam are Abrahamic religions.) And as the biggest Islamic power, Pakistan is a pristine whale shark, 40′ long and weighing 20 tons. The marine biologists say that though carnivorous, the whale shark is unlikely to take a nibble out of an unwary surfer, and is in fact, so friendly that people often swim with it.

April 8, 2018 - Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , ,

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