In 2003, Pakistan’s then-dictator Pervez Musharraf floated the idea of establishing diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, a position he has also repeated even after stepping down—although little came of the suggestion. A few weeks ago, the country’s current government told reporters that it is considering an overture to Jerusalem. Ephraim Inbar explains what Islamabad would gain from doing so, and that Israel’s ever-closer friendship with India—Pakistan’s chief rival—is an inducement, not a hindrance, to a thaw between the two countries:
Pakistani national interests dictate better relations with Jerusalem. Israel’s new relationship with India was gradually transformed into what Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed “a strategic partnership.” Israeli technology and arms served the Indian military effort well in the 1999 Kargil war against Pakistan. Moreover, closer Indian-Israeli cooperation after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks enhanced Delhi’s capacity to deal with Pakistan-sponsored terror. It can be argued that better relations with Israel might balance the intensified Indian-Israeli military ties. . . .
Iran is also a point of convergence. Pakistan fears Iran, its neighbor to the west, less than Israel does. Yet it’s hard to imagine that Islamabad is indifferent to the possibility of having another nuclear-armed neighbor on its western border. In addition, both countries play games with the Baluchi minorities beyond their borders and compete over influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, the Israeli campaign against Iran, which weakens an adversary, is not [inimical] to Pakistani interests. . . .
Israel, a state in quest of international legitimacy for many years, has always welcomed Pakistani overtures. Pakistan is a large Muslim state, and better relations with Islamabad could be useful in further diluting the religious dimension of Israel’s regional conflict. Israel desires a normalization in relations with all capitals of the world. Furthermore, the Pakistani-Saudi special relations could be leveraged to let both states overcome their inhibitions on relations with the Jewish state.