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March 14, 2016
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No shift in Pak outlook towards ME

National

March 14, 2016

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The Middle Eastern region has been a politically, culturally and religiously sensitive region throughout the ages. Not only that, it is very much clear that its strategic and economic importance in today’s world cannot be ignored. The term Middle East, first used by the British India Office and then by naval expert Alfred Tahyar Mahan in 1902 in a British journal, designates the area between Pakistan and, generally speaking, the area up to or beyond the Suez Canal.

As it is, over the decades, coordination and cooperation on security issues have strengthened the relations between Pakistan and the key Middle Eastern powers. This is essential in view of the expansionist policies by some regional countries, which Pakistan can counter by playing the role of deterrence and stabilization in the region. It is believed that a dynamic Pakistani presence in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf region that is already facing turmoil, will be a source of greater regional strength and security, and enhance Islamabad’s international weight and credibility. 

The presence of Pakistan’s top military leadership in the military exercise Thunder of the North in Saudi Arabia shows the closeness of the relationship today. According to analysts, Pakistan was the chief military power in the exercises. On Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the Saudi city of Hafr al-Batin in which he admired the successful completion of the joint military exercises that brought together military contingents from about two dozen Islamic countries. He said these exercises would promote unity among the two countries and demonstrate their resolve to further step up efforts to counter militancy and terrorism. On the other hand, King Salman bin Abdulaziz said that this has “enhanced cooperation and understanding between the armed forces of the two countries and reinforced the existing bilateral relations”.

Also, the manpower that Pakistan has provided to the Middle East has played a major role in development of the region. Overall, more than three million Pakistanis work in the Gulf countries, who contribute several billion dollars to coffers in Islamabad. 

Similarly, Pakistan’s role as a balancing power in the Middle East cannot be disregarded. This balancing role has grown over the years as the Iranian influence and sway has risen.

Overall, Pakistan’s relations with the Middle Eastern countries remain strong today and will always remain so despite there being new drivers of tension and stress in the region besides new geographical uncertainties. While the nation-state boundaries in the Middle East have been affected by geographical tensions, internecine warfare, terrorism and migration, it would only be logical for Pakistan to strengthen its relations with the Middle Eastern countries. As the multifaceted alliances and enmities in the region have grown, there has been no fundamental shift in Pakistan's strategic outlook towards the Middle East.

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