Pakistan and Syria are the countries that used to share the same silk route. This served as a ‘communication link’ between the two countries. Consequently, religious connection was further strengthened by the ‘civilization exchange’ and trade. Regional diplomatic ties of Islamabad and Damascus resemble slightly, keeping in view the tension between Syria and Israel on one hand and the inherent rivalry between India and Pakistan on the other. The extremism fomenting within their boundaries, also, has a common ‘Al-Qaeda connection’. Crudely, there is foreign intervention in both the countries to curb terrorist activities.
Islamabad had supported its spiritual partner during the Ramadan war (Yom Kippur War) of 1973 by sending military personnels to Syria. Economic and military assistance continued even after the war. In addition to this, the Syrian stance over Golan heights was supported by Pakistan in the United Nations in 1974. Oil was imported from Syria by Pakistan, where as Pakistani wheat and rice were sent there. However, ties between the two countries wavered when General Zia ul Haq rejected Hafez Al Assad’s (father of Bashar al Assad) plea of absolving Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from the trial or at least with drawing the death sentence in 1979. The former premier of Pakistan, was hanged. He is known for reorienting Pakistan’s foreign policy by flinging open the Eastern window and joining hands with the Middle East. Hafez al Assad was discontent with the way his plea was rejected altogether. He was, perhaps, the second person after Colonel Qaddafi to chant the loudest against General Zia ul Haq’s adamant stance over Bhutto’s trial that led him to the gallows.
This chequered diplomatic faux pas was healed after Hafez al Assad’s son, Bashar al Assad, now the protagonist of the Arab spring rose to power in the year 2000. In 2005, Pakistan and Syria agreed to cooperate in the field of science and technology. An interesting involvement of Syria is linked with the historic 2006 unification of India and Pakistan under the umbrella of Non-aligned movement (NAM). This was the 14th meeting of this movement that has done little to implement the long list of declarations against US hegemony. However, Syria was appointed as the Deputy Chairman during this meeting. The distinctive characteristic of NAM’s 14th summit was regional economic blockade formed by Brazil, Russia,India, China and South Africa (BRICS). 40% of the world’s population and 25% of the global GDP is represented by BRICS.
Since then, multi polarity and regional alliances have been essential components of NAM (although that is contrary to its original purpose of formation). Pakistan,Iran and Saudia Arabia are also member states of the NAM. However, Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to be the persuader on behalf of its Western ally, the United States, for resolving the Syrian crisis. On her visit to the US , Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar is expected to land at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on January 1, 2013 for an abbreviated visit. As Pakistan assumes the rotational presidency of United Nations Security Council, the oil rich Kingdom along with the West, wants Islamabad to convince Beijing and Moscow in return. The role for Pakistan has been defined, but it is contrary to the stance adopted by Iran (which also has the presidency of NAM now). Brazil, India and South Africa have already supported China and Russia in the UN Security Council. This explicitly indicates that negotiating with Moscow and Beijing circumvents BRICS. Considering the pliancy of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the past, it is likely that the ruling party will bend in favour of the United States, but any diplomatic strangle with BRICS and Iran cannot be afforded. As regional isolation may lead to severe repercussions for Pakistan.