Govt advised to review Middle East policy framework (Dawn (Pakistan))

While the government struggles to formulate its response to the changing situation in the Middle East, especially after the Houthi crisis in Yemen, a study done at the National Institute of Management (NIM) has recommended to the government to review the policy framework for the Middle East and adopt a proactive role based on the principle of non-interference, independence and territorial integrity of regional states.
The paper authored by a Foreign Service Officer Imran Siddiqui has been forwarded by NIM Director General Naveed Kamran to the Foreign Office with comments that besides being helpful in understanding the regional politics, it identifies the trends that may impact Pakistan in future.
Take a look: A role for the OIC?
The author says a “role -based on the principle of non-interference, independence and territorial integrity of regional states -will help the country avoid unnecessary contests with ambitious regional players while pursuing its interests in the region”.
Noting that the Gulf region was unlikely to remain unaffected by events in Levant and Egypt and Irans expanding involvement in regional conflicts, Mr Siddiqui said: “Pakistan needs to engage with regional players in all Middle Eastern sub-regions including with its immediate neighbour, Iran”.
He said that Tehran would always sceptically view Pakistans role in the Gulf as it would directly impinge on Iranian interests in the region.
The challenge facing the government in dealing with the new situation in the Middle East is to come up with a policy that helps it promote its relations with the countries in the Gulf, while avoiding a confrontational position with Iran.
Mr Siddiqui lists the challenges for the governments policy on the Middle East as ensuring stability in the Gulf region and developing diverse ties with regional states, besides expanding labour force there; guaranteeing the security of oil supply to Pakistan from the Gulf region; maintaining cooperative relations with Iran; being seen as a stabilising factor and not a party to any conflict; shielding Pakistan from negative impact of Middle Eastern sectarian politics; neutralising anti-Pakistan Indian influence in the region; evolving a non-committal relationship with Israel in order to neutralise impact of its close defence relations with India.
The study has reviewed Pakistans relations with all regional countries and recommended that relationship with Saudi Arabia needs to be “institutionalised”, while Iranian concerns particularly with respect to Iranian Baluchistan should be allayed. Moreover, it suggested that contest with Iran for influence in Afghanistan needed to be avoided.
The policy recommendations for engagement with Arab Gulf states include stronger engagement with regional states by going beyond the stereotypical understanding of Arab systems and politics; developing a credible justification for involvement with peace and security issues; making security agreements; developing commercial ties and increasing scope for labour force; community welfare; developing contacts with Najaf-based Shia clergy; and getting assurances on non-interference in Pakistans sectarian issues.