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Middle East Concerns About India – Pakistan Tensions

By: Meir Javedanfar

30/11/2008

The recent terrorist attacks in India should be viewed with concern in the Middle East. After the weekend’s events, its a question of when, not if India retaliates against Pakistan.

However such an attack will force Islamabad to pull its forces away from the Afghani border, thus enabling Al Qaeda to expand its operations in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, tensions between India and Pakistan will mean that Barack Obama will have to focus his efforts there, as soon as he enters office, or even before. This could reduce US involvement and focus on the Iranian nuclear program, the situation in Iraq and the Israeli Palestinian peace process. In all cases, conservative, anti-peace parties could make use of the reduced US focus to expand their activities.

There is also the economic angle. There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis living abroad, due to troubles at home. The new tensions could send them fleeing in larger numbers, thus putting more strain on the economies of Middle Eastern countries, especially those belonging to the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council.

Iran in particular has much to worry when it comes to its economy. It was placing much hope on the peace pipeline running through Pakistan and India. It was hoping that through the sale of gas to these two energy hungry giants, it could increase its income and political leverage in the region. With relations between India and Pakistan worsening, this now seems much less likely.

The current crisis between India and Pakistan is not just a test for Barack Obama. Its also a diplomatic challenge for the Middle East. Despite the difficulties ahead, Middle Eastern countries, especially those who have leverage over Pakistan, should try to contain the current situation by pressuring Islamabad to curb the activities of terrorists on its soil. Saudi Arabia could lead the region in this case. Having emerged as the recent rescuer of Pakistan’s financial crisis, it could use its leverage over Islamabad. After Washington, Riyadh is the second biggest door opener in corridors of power in Pakistan. This could be put into good use.

The current crisis can also be viewed as the first test for global multilateral diplomacy as a tool to resolve crisis in the post Bush era. The international community should try not to fail.


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Posted on : Nov 30 2008
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