The first Arab-Islamic-American Summit, held this Sunday, 21 May in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was nightmarish for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his delegation.
The popular sentiment among the majority of Pakistani media delegation was that of a total humiliation of the sole Muslim nuclear power because not only there was no mention of Islamabad’s role against global terrorism but also the prime minister of the ‘front line state’ was denied the opportunity to put forth its point of view.
At the summit, that was attended by US President Donald Trump, Sharif was not invited to address even as he was reported to have spent the entire flight to Riyadh rehearsing his speech. Former Pakistani army chief Raheel Sharif, who heads the Islamic military coalition, was not asked to speak either.
According to another story, published in a major Pakistani newspaper, “something has gone terribly wrong as the Summit didn’t mention Pakistan’s role against global terrorism and its prime minister Nawaz Sharif was not given chance to put forth the country’s point of view’ whereas Pakistan has lost over 70,000 civilians and 6000 security forces personnel in terrorism related violence.”
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has taken on Nawaz Sharif for letting Pakistan and other Muslim communities down with his ineffective presence at the global forum.
Imran Khan, while blaming Sharif for disgracing Pakistan at the summit, said that “Nawaz Sharif should have talked about the plight of Kashmiris and Palestinians” and went on to criticise Donald Trump for praising India and for ignoring “the atrocities being committed by India against the Kashmiris.”
Imran Khan said the way Sharif was treated was ‘unfortunate for all.’ “Pakistan’s foreign policy is a disaster,” he said.
He lashed out at Sharif for remaining silent when Trump spoke of isolating Iran. Khan said Iran should have been a part of the Islamic military alliance and that differences between Muslim countries must be bridged, not widened. “Nawaz Sharif lost a big opportunity and the Pakistani people are extremely disappointed. If he didn’t take a stand on what the Pakistani nation wants, then why he even bothered going there,”
The anti-terror summit, which aims to develop a security partnership against the threat of violent extremism, saw no mention of Islamabad among countries that are at the receiving end of, as well as combating, terrorism.
Not only did the US President Donald Trump identify India as a victim of terror, he failed to acknowledge Pakistan as one.
One of the key points of Trump’s speech which angered Pakistan was the fact that he said that India was one of the countries which had suffered due to terrorism, ignoring Pakistan’s suffering because of terrorism. “The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and even South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have been victims,” Trump had said.
This at a time when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadav,an alleged Indian spy convicted of terrorism in Pakistan, and when deeming Kashmiri separatist militancy synonymous with “Pakistan sponsored terrorism” is the official New Delhi stance.
This is exactly the opposite of the narrative that Pakistan has been trying to push for years.
It very well might not have been his intention, but by singling out India alone as a victim of terror among the South Asian states, Trump upheld New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir, and completely shelved Pakistan’s claims of “India sponsored terrorism”, specifically in the volatile province of Balochistan.
This would’ve normally been a setback at most gatherings, but for the U.S.-Saudi leadership to silence Pakistan’s narrative at an “Islamic” summit was particularly damaging, considering that Islamabad has long held Islam as a foreign policy tool and has based its support for the Kashmiri struggle on religious affiliation as well.
Trump also snubbed a request for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif,whom he only met with on the sidelines of the summit,while having well publicized talks with many other leaders.
With its decades-old racist foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan backfiring, ties with India continuing to plunge,and now Iran earmarking it as an integral part of the Saudi camp, Islamabad is surrounded by a hostile neighbourhood that is finding common ground in uniting against militancy originating in Pakistan.
This is especially true when China, the only state that is backing Islamabad and giving it an economic lifeline, has staunch anti-Mulsim policies in the region that is going to help Pakistan sustain itself.
An even bigger setback for Pakistan’s foreign policy came when both Trump and Saudi King Salman,the most influential pair,turned the summit into a launching pad against Iran, the leader of the Shia Muslims that shares a 909 km long border with Pakistan, whose around 20 percent population is Shia by faith.
And as Pakistan’s immediate neighbours accuse it of supporting terrorism, the snub for Pakistan at a counter terror conference, hosted by the country that Islamabad is going out of its way to protect against the much-touted “Shia crescent”,means that there are no buyers for Pakistan’s narrative on its role against terrorism.
This is not even the first time the Trump administration sent a message to Pakistan over its support to terrorism.
Earlier in May, the Trump administration had blamed Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pakistan relations and had warned that the ties might worsen further if another “high-profile” terrorist attack emanates from across the border this year.
“Islamabad’s failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi’s growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan’s investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016,” Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, had told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
Meanwhile, the geopolitical reality is every successive US government, including the present one of Donald Trump, sees Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and squarely blames Pakistan for promoting terror in India.
On May 11, in its ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’ report, the US Government blamed Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pakistan ties and batted for India’s growing intolerance over Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism. And in April, Gen HR McMaster, the US National Security Advisor, who was in Pakistan, bluntly told Pakistan to stop using terror as state policy.