Arabia's prioritising of profit over principle has grown exponentially under
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
Arabia has jealously guarded its claim to being the “guardian of Islam” by
being the undisputed leader in donating humanitarian aid to the Muslim world,
with foreign aid contributions exceeding $90 billion – or 3.7 percent of its
annual gross domestic product in thirty years spanning 1975 to 2005.
But in its
current era of defacto Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) rule, the Kingdom
is replacing its previously expressed care for Muslim causes with the
cold-hearted calculations of realpolitik.
Saudi Arabia is undergoing what can be viewed as an identity transformation,
moving away from its brand of ultra-orthodox Islam towards a new nationalism -
a move that rolls back the influence and control of the country’s religious
establishment over the House of Saud. This, in turn, creates the political
space for the MBS-led monarchy to be constrained less by religious notions
portending to morality, and allow it to exact profits from its state-controlled
oil business with ruthless efficiency.
On the rare
recent instances it puts the weight of the monarchy behind a cause or crisis in
the Muslim world, it does so but with begrudging reluctance, and typically
because it has either trampled on or turned its back on an untouchable or
sacred Islamic rail. This is no more evident than in the way it acted as a
publicist for the US in soliciting Arab support for President Donald Trump’s
so-called “Deal of the Century.”
later publicly distanced themselves from the deal due to the broader Arab and
Muslim anger towards what would’ve solidified a system of apartheid for the
Palestinian people, while sanctifying Israel’s illegal claims to ownership of
7, Saudi Arabia rejected Pakistan’s second plea for an urgent meeting of the
council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir at the Organization of Islamic
Prime Minister Imran Khan responded by slamming of what he views as an
apathetic Saudi response by saying, “We can’t even come together as a whole on
the OIC Summit meeting on Kashmir.”
following day, Saudi Arabia, responding to global criticism, performed a
diplomatic U-turn, announcing it would work together with Pakistan to “advance
the Kashmir cause,” including from the platform of the OIC.
Arabia’s muted response to Kashmir is explained by its petroleum sales to
India, with the Kingdom now the Asian country’s second-largest supplier.
of last year, the trade ties between Riyadh and New Delhi became even stronger
on the back of a bilateral deal that will ensure Saudi owned Aramco helps India
build the capacity to hold emergency crude oil reserves as a “buffer against
volatility in oil prices and supply disruptions.”
between Riyadh and New Delhi to grow ever closer in the coming years and
decades, a relationship that will come at the expense of both Pakistan and the
economy is not only seven-times the size of Pakistan’s but is also fast
becoming one of the Arab world’s most strategic partners.
growing market for Arab oil and gas, as a source of highly trained and
competent personnel, and as a friendly country with a powerful military and a
strong interest in geopolitical stability, India is a valuable neighbour in a
dangerous part of the world,” observes the Wall Street Journal.
Arabia’s apathy towards the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
mirrors its attitude and behaviour towards Kashmir. Three weeks ago the United
Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ordered
Myanmar to take emergency “protective measures” to guarantee the safety of the
Muslim minority, but the Myanmar military has defied the ruling in continuing
to carry out weekly, almost daily attacks on Rohingya villages in Rakhine
Saudi Arabia nor the OIC has offered to take a lead role or play any role in
resolving what is one of this century’s worst genocide campaigns. Why? Saudi
Arabia ruthlessly and jealously protects its status as China’s top supplier of
crude oil, and the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipelines carry oil from the
Arabian Peninsula to China’s landlocked Yunnan Province through Myanmar.
argue that Saudi Arabia is less likely to be outspoken on this (Rohingya) issue
because it actually relies on the Burmese government to protect the physical
security of the pipeline,” Bo Kong, a senior associate at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies who has written about China’s global
petroleum policy, told the Associated Press.
There was a
time, until very recently, that Saudi Arabia seized opportunities to enhance
its reputation in the Muslim world, remembering it was the number one
international donor towards cyclone relief in Bangladesh in 2007 and provided
Pakistan with $220 million in humanitarian aid for the 2010 floods. But now
under MBS, Saudi Arabia is moving away from its religiously inspired generosity
and morality, and in its place is embracing nationalism and the maximisation of
Headline: Saudi Arabia's double game in South Asia