The blocs in the Muslim world – the Saudi-UAE bloc, the Turkey-Pakistan-Malaysia bloc. Pakistan’s drift from Saudi Arabia as it moves closer into Turkey’s embrace. The deepening security and economic ties of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with India. These geo-political shifts are the latent dynamics underlying Dubai’s accord with India to build multi-billion-dollar infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. The major signals here: Advantage Kashmir. Advantage India.
Dubai has committed to build world-class infrastructure in the troubled region including industrial parks, IT towers, multi-purpose towers, logistics centers, a medical college, and a super-specialty specialized hospital.
Contrast this to Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia, which soured in 2020 and saw marginal improvement in the first quarter of 2021. Last month, Khaled Ahmed wrote in Newsweek Pakistan that the once “brotherly” ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia got dented in recent years, partly due to Islamabad’s growing ties with Turkey. “The Pak-Turk relationship has tended to disturb the Arab part of the Islamic world due to the well-known split between Ankara and the Arab states,” Ahmed noted. Around March 2021, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia appeared to be in the midst of a reset of relations. Despite the improving trajectory, analysts noted that the bilateral reset would be limited to modest economic and military cooperation.
Meanwhile, the two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) heavyweights, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are now strategically close to New Delhi with strong economic and security ties. That UAE has chosen Kashmir to make multi-billion dollar investments is extremely significant. The move holds great potential for Kashmir.
We Know The Obstacles In Kashmir, Says Dubai
It is not to be missed that the accord with Dubai comes at a time when Kashmir is witnessing resurgence in violence that has left the locals shaken. The statement of Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman, and CEO of DP World Dubai, to Srinagar media, must be understood for the deep meaning it carries. “We are committed to connect Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India. We know how to do that, we know the obstacles.”
This is what the Dubai has said, standing in Srinagar: “We know the obstacles.” It will not be so easy for Pakistan to execute its usual malice in Kashmir, and keep the terror networks in high gear. The accord with Dubai for investment in Kashmir is a diplomatic high for India. It also holds major strategic importance.
Why Dubai Investment In Kashmir Carries Deep Geopolitical Significance
After long years of lull induced by terror, Kashmir is opening up to international investment. The investment in Kashmir is being made by the geopolitical heavyweights of the Islamic world. As Guardian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia’s role as the center of the Islamic faith is beyond reproach. The House of Saud is recognized as the undisputed leader of the Islamic world. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying hard to position Turkey as the center of the Muslim World.
The rivalry between Ankara and Riyadh is shaping regional events not only in the Middle East. It has the potential to turn the tide in Kashmir. India, with its growing prosperity and huge market, is on the global high table. The shared economic ties between India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are a prime driving force for the investment happening in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Self Goal Is Born Of Deep Anxiety
Pakistan recently scored a self-goal by denying use of its airspace for the direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah. Pakistan’s kneejerk reaction is born of its deep anxiety over the deepening ties between India and the GCC titans. Islamabad’s proximity with Ankara has hurt its relations with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Pakistan has consistently exploited its religious proximity to Kashmir’s Muslim-majority population by planting terror networks here. Now the GCC titans are investing heavily in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia or UAE. 2020 saw the much-publicized spat between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which culminated with Riyadh’s demand for early repayment of $3 billion in loans meant to buttress Islamabad’s foreign exchange reserves. Pakistan managed to placate Riyadh. After much cajoling by Pakistan, Riyadh announced that it shall not withdraw the final tranche of its $3 billion loan.
Pakistan is now seen in Turkey camp, but can it afford to annoy Saudi Arabia and UAE? No. Yet Pakistan denied airspace for the Srinagar-Sharjah flight, which means an hour of additional travel for travelers, and higher ticket price. Saudi Arabia is the global leader of Sunni Islam. Kashmir is a deeply religious religion, immersed in faith. Major investment by the Gulf majors in Kashmir portends shifts. The investment threatens to weaken Pakistan’s hold on Kashmir. Agreed that the situation in Kashmir is always mercurial. In a conflict region, nothing can be said with certainty. But signals should not be missed either.