Google is great; it’s amazing what you can find while looking through your referral logs. I have gotten quite a few visits who were searching for Israel and Pakistan. My post about Pakistani recognition of Israel is #5 on Google. While looking through the search results, I noticed a report Beyond the Veil: Israel-Pakistan Relations by P.R. Kumaraswamy which was published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. It was published in March 2000 before the Al-Aqsa intifada.
Israel has been more interested in normalization than Pakistan. Even though Pakistan is not a “vital” area for Israel, one cannot underestimate its importance in the Islamic world. Since 1948, Israel has been eager to intensify and upgrade contacts and dialogues, but the nature, depth and content of such contacts were determined by the reluctant other: Pakistan. The latter has been reacting and responding to Israeli overtures. While Israel might take the initiative, the outcomes rest on Pakistan.
Kumaraswamy starts out by discussing some similarities between Israel and Pakistan.
Notwithstanding these differences, however, both states share a certain common historical legacy and the contours of state-building. They both suffer from internal strife and divisions. As states created with the explicit purpose of safeguarding the political rights of religious minorities, the Zionist and Pakistani struggles for independence reflect some similar political traits and approaches. Some of the problems they faced in nation-building were also similar.
In both cases, the question of nationhood was strongly influenced by religion; yet those who led the struggle were anything but religious. Neither Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, nor David Ben-Gurion visualized the creation of theocratic entities.
[…]These are not the only similarities between Israel and Pakistan. Since their establishment, both countries have been haunted by an existential threat and have struggled for acceptance by their regional neighbor/s. It is no coincidence that the security establishment plays a pivotal rule in both countries; in one case as an effective vehicle for national unity and cohesion and in another as the ultimate arbitrator in the national power struggle. While the degree of external threat differs, both countries had genuine fears about their acceptance by the majority from which they broke away.
[…]Unlike their rivals (India and the Arab countries respectively) they pursued a realistic foreign policy devoid of idealism and rhetoric. At the time of their independence, both tried to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy that sought friendly relations with the rival blocs of the Cold War. A host of regional developments curtailed their options, however. Very soon, both were firmly entrenched in the Western camp and emerged as principal allies, and at times proxies, of Washington in the region.
Here are his conclusions on normalization of relations between the two countries:
The absence of formal diplomatic relations has not inhibited Israel and Pakistan from maintaining regular contacts, dialogues and meetings. On numerous occasions, they have adopted identical positions on important developments in the Middle East. Furthermore, they have worked out limited understandings on sensitive security issues, including the nuclear question. Although Pakistan has been reluctant to agree to the persistent Israeli suggestions that full and formal relations be established, normalization is no longer a taboo subject and has been widely discussed by the Pakistani media. The question is when and not if. A comprehensive Middle East settlement, especially with the Palestinians, would significantly modify Pakistan?s position. Nevertheless, ideological and Islamic considerations might prevent Pakistan from agreeing to full normalization.
Whenever Pakistan recognizes and establishes relations with Israel, it will not be the first Islamic country to do so. Since it has no direct disputes with Israel, Pakistan is not under any compulsion to seek a “cold peace” with Israel, and therefore has several options to choose from.
- The Turkish model: Pakistan can recognize Israel without establishing diplomatic relations immediately.
- The Iranian model: It can follow the precedent set by the Shah of Iran and recognize the Jewish state, but maintain its relationship under wraps.
- The Jordanian model: It can imitate the Jordanians and maintain close political as well as military relations with the Jewish state without granting any official recognition.
- The Chinese model: It can adopt the Chinese example and view military contacts as a means of promoting political relations.
At least in the foreseeable future, the political status of the relationship is likely to be tentative. While maintaining and even intensifying political contacts in private, both Israel and Pakistan will probably be extremely reluctant to discuss the nature and intensity of their contacts and relationship in public.
In my opinion, Pakistan would like to go the Chinese model route, but Israel is not willing especially since it has good relations with India now. That is why Israel is dangling the prospect of neutrality in India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir if Pakistan proceeds towards establishing relations.
Next: Some details of the history of Pakistani involvement in the Arab-Israeli dispute and contacts between Israel and Pakistan.