Since its creation—only a year before Israel—Pakistan has not had normal relations with the Jewish state. Islamabad has justified this policy on the grounds that friendliness toward Israel would anger its Arab allies, or constitute moral callousness toward Palestinians, or violate Islam. To Saad Hafiz, such rationales are invalid or moot:
[O]ne wonders what strategic benefit Pakistan derives by keeping overtures to Israel on hold in order to curry favor with the Arab world. . . . Since the early years, our brotherly Arabs have treated Pakistan with a mixture of condescension and derision. Initially, Pakistan was labeled a Western lackey and an opponent of Arab nationalism. More recently, rich Arab states have treated Pakistan as a poor relation constantly begging for aid. Also, many Arab states are themselves lining up to establish ties with a militarily and economically strong Israel.
[Moreover], Pakistan is not in a position to . . . influence the resolution of the Palestinian dispute. It is illogical for Pakistan to wait for the complicated situation in the Middle East to resolve itself before establishing a relationship with Israel. . . . There is no conflict between Pakistan’s interests and Israel’s.
We should expect the standard resistance from the Islamist lobby long opposed to a dialogue with Israel on “moral” grounds. We are bound to hear about an American-Jewish conspiracy to entice Pakistan away from the Islamic and Palestinian cause. Stirring the religious beast onto the streets is avoided by governments in Pakistan. It requires inspired and visionary leadership to take on the political risks for opening new diplomatic horizons for Pakistan.
Pakistan needs to reshape its foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. To take advantage of the changing geopolitical situation in the region, Pakistan must develop a multi-pronged approach. Balancing ties with the Muslim world and Israel can maximize Pakistan’s interests. Israel may also see the benefit of an economic partnership with Pakistan, without compromising its burgeoning strategic relationship with India.