If the China-Pakistan axis had India concerned over the coming together of two of its most powerful neighbours, what will its strategists conclude over a reordering of Pakistan’s relationship with New Delhi’s emerging ally in the Gulf, the UAE? Should India be alarmed as Abu Dhabi rekindles an old relationship and bankrolls Pakistan under Prime Minister Imran Khan?
UAE Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief guest at the 2017 Republic Day, pledged $75 million in investment to build India’s infrastructure. Signalling a new direction, UAE foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed expressed an interest in partnering India in nano-science technology and its space mission during a visit to Bengaluru in July 2018. Relations went further, as shown by the cooperation by security agencies in tracking down not just a runaway princess, and securing the extradition of AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel, but in getting terror suspects shipped back to Indian jails.
On Sunday, however, the UAE Crown Prince announced a $6.2 billion package to bolster Pakistan’s faltering economy, mirroring a similar Saudi bailout.
The Modi government, with one eye on oil imports and keeping remittances from overseas Indians flowing, reinforced ties with the Gulf nation, keeping it fully in the loop on the terror threat Pakistan poses. But the scope and trajectory of the relationship Pakistan has with the Gulf goes beyond the India-Pakistan paradigm. This all the more so as the US prepares to exit and arch-enemy Iran steps into the fray, Abu Dhabi wants to co-opt Pakistan into backing the right Taliban in Afghanistan. India, with strong ties to both Tehran and Abu Dhabi, must re-examine how to navigate between these two conflicting narratives....