Tuesday October 03, 2023

A thorny visit

July 22, 2022

US President Joe Biden has concluded his first visit to the Middle East. During the first stage, he signed a security agreement with Israel, in which both countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in the defence field. However, the major breakthrough was the video-link conference of the top leadership of the four member countries of the regional alliance I2U2, comprising India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. According to media reports, the latest situation in the Middle East, especially the mutual cooperation to counter the growing influence of anti-American elements in the region, was discussed during the high-level meeting.

The US president’s direct arrival from Tel Aviv to Jeddah, the capital of Saudi Arabia, was also a unique event of its kind. Saudi Arabia, although it refuses to recognize Israel, lifted air restrictions on Israel during Biden’s visit. With the move, the duration of the air travel for the citizens of Israel to India and the Far East will now become very short.

Biden, speaking during the Security and Development Summit held in Jeddah, criticized Iran, China and Russia in strong words. According to him, the US would never allow any anti-US player to dominate the region. Leaders from six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq were also present in the summit. On the other hand, Iran has termed the alleged steps taken by the American president to unite the Middle Eastern countries against Tehran as ‘Iranphobia’.

In my view, Biden has made his visit to the Middle East at a critical time when the influence of the US in the region has suffered a severe blow. The withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan after spending 20 years there, the return of the Taliban to power, and Russia’s attack on former Soviet state Ukraine have put a question mark on the status of the US as the only superpower.

Earlier, Nato, in the presence of US President Biden, also presented its ten-year strategic plan during a meeting in Madrid, declaring Russia and China as security challenges for the West. The possibility of Finland and Sweden joining Nato has further angered Russia, as the country has started reducing gas supplies to Europe in the past few months, due to which fuel prices are increasing day by day.

Several international think tanks have already warned about the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and Western institutions, stating that if Russia completely halts oil exports, the world market will collapse very badly. The price of oil would exceed 400 dollars per barrel. Countries with unstable economies will be unable to face recession, inflation and unemployment, and ultimately look to Russia for help. Russia has already shown a glimpse by temporarily closing the natural gas pipeline to Europe under the guise of pre-scheduled routine maintenance.

The international media is now focusing on the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing visit to Iran, where he is discussing the latest situation in the war-torn country of Syria with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Pakistan is a country with a unique geographical location and a strong military force in the region, due to which our significance cannot be neglected by any regional power. However, the rapidly changing ground realities have changed the stereotypical policies that have been in place for years. There is also a dire need for the leadership of our political parties to maintain internal stability, so that the country can regain its lost position.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets @RVankwani