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A Continuing Dilemma

Should Pakistan recognize Israel? The country may have good reasons to do
so but many domestic and geopolitical compulsions stand in the way.

By Sabria Chowdhury Balland | February 2021

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.


A debate regarding Pakistan’s establishing relations with Israel has once again entered political discussion. How to establish strategic and diplomatic relations with Israel really does not pose any downsides but the other end of the spectrum regards this as an unfavourable move, ideologically and politically.

Several Arab countries have recently established diplomatic ties with Israel. The Zionist state has maintained full diplomatic relations with two of its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, after signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively. In 2020, the Trump administration oversaw the signing of agreements between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco. Questions are now being asked as to why, if Arab countries are moving ahead with the recognition of Israel, Pakistan and Bangladesh are not doing the same?

latuff-hrwPakistan finds itself in a complex and delicate situation. It is being pressured, apparently by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to recognize Israel while supporting the rights of Palestine. The essential question is: are diplomatic ties with a nation whilst calling out its gross human rights violations mutually exclusive?

Pakistan has always objected to the human rights violations committed by India on Kashmir. This is the most consequential bone of contention between Pakistan and India and from all expert accounts, if the two nuclear armed countries ever launched a nuclear war, it would most likely be over Kashmir. Yet, they maintain diplomatic and trade ties. Therefore, it would not be an invalid question to ask why Pakistan cannot maintain the same relationship with Israel?

The pressure exerted by some Arab countries to do exactly this is a concern, considering that since 1973, Pakistan has been receiving billions of dollars from workers in the Arab countries and this has contributed to its GDP. As a developing economy, Perhaps it would be right for Pakistan to join an alliance with them and Israel and in the process, expand its trade.That is one way of looking at it.

The other, palpable, heart wrenching facet is human rights. True, Pakistan maintains diplomatic ties with India regardless of the latter’s authoritarian policies in Kashmir. But, India and Israel present two different situations.

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