Islamic Ummah’s Unity: A Pipe Dream for Now
Written By: Tariq Niaz Bhatti
With Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son in law, suggesting that more Muslim countries are likely recognize Israel in next three months it looks the list will swell crushing the myth that no Arab state will make peace with Israel without the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state. It is expected that soon more countries, from 22 members Arab league with population of approximately 440 million, will toe the line of UAE. Except for Turkey and Iran there were no strong worded statements on the UAE- Israel peace agreement from entire Ummah. For now U.S. is focusing more on Arab league members for peace agreement with Israel than the non-Arab Muslim world which in its reckoning have least stakes in Palestinian issue. The assertion become more plausible when Arabs indifference towards plight of Indian occupied Kashmir is viewed in the same context.
Under the prevailing political division of Ummah into Arab and non-Arab groups, both options of unity i.e. Khilafat and Islamic Economic Union seems out of question. As of now most of the Arab states are contend with their economic, political and security alliance with U.S. and its regional ally India. In this backdrop, any talks of unity will likely pose serious challenge to of leadership of KSA as bigger non-Arab countries with comparatively much larger population might like to assert more effectively in any new Muslims representative set up. Arab league was founded with six founding members in 1945. To cater to newly independent Muslim states Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was created specially in the backdrop of Al-Aqsa Mosque fire incident in 1969. Arab League was never disbanded as the Arabs wanted to maintain their separate identity from Hindi Muslims. Today Islamic world, for all practical purposes, stands divided between Arabs and non-Arabs states on the lines of historic Arab and Ajam division.
U.S. presidential elections in November this year are crucial as Joe Biden election could usher more stability in ME and possibility also exist of revival of Iran nuclear deal. Such hopes are based on U.S. desires of check mating rising economic influence of China in Middle East (ME) and South Asia. In a recent TV interview Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that economic future of Pakistan is linked with China who has consistently supported Pakistan both politically and economically and their strong mutual friendship has flourished all along. Pak-China commonalities of interests is seen in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects which upon completion, will turn Pakistan into a regional economic hub and benefit China in the form of access to Indian Ocean.
India enjoys an observer status in Arab league due to its alleged holding of sizeable population of Arab descent. India has been able to establish close economic and political relations with most member states of OIC which is an outcome of its rapid economic progress especially in the last two decades. In 2019, UAE extended invitation to India as guest of honor in plenary session of OIC in Abu Dhabi. Over the last few years key OIC members like Indonesia, Algeria and Syria have been opposed to strong position by OIC on Kashmir. Besides, Bangladesh have been keen that India plays key role in OIC. So does Morocco, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. UAE meanwhile have developed close ties with India. Saudi Arabia, Jordan besides old partner Oman and gas-rich Qatar are emerging key political and economic partners for Delhi. Kuwait played a key role in the UN Security Council as non-permanent member to support Statement on Pulwama Attacks and Jaish-e-Mohammad. On the other hand Iran has emerged as a strategic partner linking India with Eurasia besides being energy partner. Pakistan during the same period had its marrying up with proponents of revenge of democracy and experienced an economic downturn due largely to extensive corruption and mismanagement of economy. Pakistan poor economic performance created space in Gulf which was quickly occupied by India and it cemented its relations with most of Gulf monarchies. Viewing the situation, PM Imran Khan, in a recent TV interview, stated clearly that Pakistan has no concern with Arab states foreign policies and their conduct of bilateral relations with the world at large.
Arab and non-Arab divide is also indicative of complexed nature of Muslim interstate relations since the dawn of Islam. Most of Arab states still hold centuries old Bedouin culture close to their heart and consider themselves superior to non-Arab Muslim world. Oil price boom of 73 and resulting flow of unprecedented wealth has further strengthened this perception. Pakistani support to Palestinian cause is based on principles as stipulated by Quaid-e-Azam in 1948. Due to lack of commonality of interests, no Arab state is ready to effectively support Pakistani stand on Kashmir due to their deepening economic and political relations with India. Pakistan’s own poor economic performance has left it mostly seeking financial assistance from its Arab friends. Under the circumstances Pakistan needs to focus more on economic uplifting to eliminate its financial dependency instead of seeking unity amongst non-Arab Muslim states or entire Ummah. Government has done wisely to link its economic future with rising economic power China as only an economically strong and stable Pakistan can win Kashmiri people the freedom from Indian yoke.