At the World Economic Forum in Davos in May, the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, met with a group of expatriate Pakistanis. After knowledge of the meeting became public, there was a storm of outrage in Pakistan, and a journalist was fired by the government-sponsored broadcasting company for visiting the Jewish state. There is little reason, however, that Islamabad and Jerusalem should not have diplomatic relations. Ameena Tanvir writes:
As countries in the Gulf have started normalizing their relationships with Israel, Pakistan has the chance to revisit its own policy. Recognition from countries like Bahrain, the UAE, and Morocco—and Saudi Arabia’s expansion of secretive talks with Israel—could provide more impetus for Islamabad to present its case of Israeli recognition to a skeptical domestic audience.
In the long-term, if Pakistan becomes more isolated in its position on Israel, [this isolation] could also alter its historically warm ties with Gulf states . . . like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As important economic partners, and home for many in Pakistan’s diaspora and migrant-worker population, these countries have more leverage to push Pakistan towards recognition.
Through extending recognition, Pakistan can also benefit from Israel’s state-of-the-art military hardware, such as attack helicopters, which Pakistan needs for its counterterrorism operations in Baluchistan and its northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan. Because of the U.S.’s reluctance to sell military hardware to Pakistan and the inferior quality of Chinese defense equipment, Islamabad has been looking for new defense partners to maintain rough conventional parity with India. Israel, as a growing defense exporter, could fulfill some of Pakistan’s defense requirements.