There is quite a fuss about Saudi Arabia possibly positioning itself for direct or indirect ties with Israel. It has just allowed an overflight to the Israeli airlines. The UAE and Bahrain have already accorded recognition to the oppressor of the Palestinians. Egypt and Jordan did this decades ago. All of them enjoy excellent political and trade relations with our eastern neighbor India, which has – at least as of now – our western neighbour Afghanistan under its thumb. Where does this leave the economically struggling Pakistan? More exposed to international political and economic black-mail? Probably yes. Let us see how! China and Turkey – two of Pakistan’s best friends –maintain both diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. China is in fact Israel’s third largest international trading partner, and the largest in East Asia. China’s investments in Israel since 2015 or so have totaled at least $ 17 billion. Chinese companies are helping out the Jewish state in the construction of the Haifa Port – also used by the US Marines, expansion of an air base, a desalination plant Sorek -B as well as in nuclear and space technology. China , following the US ban on sensitive equipment for ZTE/Huawei, has imported semiconductors – key component in Artificial Intelligence – worth billions of dollars. Several dozen flights between Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Tel Aviv connect the two countries. The fierce tariff war followed by multifarious sanctions that President Trump imposed on China hardly dented the Sino-Israel relations. It did not prevent Tel Aviv from opening up to Beijing and delivering sensitive semiconductors worth billions of dollars. Turkey, the second best Pakistan ally, maintains a $ 6 billion trade with Israel, making it the latter’s 6th largest trading partner. Although President Erdogan’s independent Middle East policy and his defense equipment deals with Russia have annoyed Trump, yet it did not stop Turkey from maintaining trade ties with Israel. Dozens of flights between Istanbul-Ankara and Tel Aviv point to a vibrant commercial relationship, albeit both are politically somewhat estranged. The most populous Muslim nation Indonesia, like Pakistan, is an ardent supporter of the Palestinians and insists on an independent state for them. Without formal diplomatic relations, though, both maintain quiet unofficial trade and investment cooperation as well as tourism cooperation. In 2018, bilateral trade amounted to approximately $100 million despite significant Indonesian restrictions on direct commerce with Israel. Similarly, a steady stream of Israeli tourists visit Indonesia annually despite restrictions on visas, which they must obtain via Singapore. In 2018/19, almost 38,000 Indonesian tourists visited Israel. A whopping 14,000 came from Malaysia, another ardent critic of Israel. The suspension of work visas/permit for Pakistani workers is one such tool that the UAE has applied in what appears to be an economic blackmail of a country which gets about $ 4 billion annual remittances from the UAE alone. If Saudi Arabia were to also chart the same path, this could jeopardize another at least $5 billion annual remittances from the Kingdom. Cumulatively, we might be dealing with about five million jobs that may be at risk just in case the UAE and Saudi Arabi join our best “friend” India in squeezing Pakistan out of their markets. This would automatically add to the massive unemployment that currently worries us all. India’s trade and investments with UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel currently run into tens of billions of dollars – as the Gulf countries diversify and stagger their investments abroad. There is only one lesson that Pakistan can draw from best friends China, Turkey, Indonesia as well as from the “arch-rival” India; it is cold financial calculations that determine respective “national interests” and not emotionalism. Geo-politics – that evolves out of multi-, and bilateral relations – knows no morality or principles. It is about stitching alliances of convenience as firewalls against economic black-mail. “National interest demands minimizing the number of your enemies and focusing on economic development and consolidation.” This advice from the Chinese President Xi Jinping to our civil-military leadership has been part of their bilateral conversations since September 2018. Drawing on examples of Hong Kong ( we waited for 100 years to get it back ) and Taiwan (which we believe is ours)President Xi reportedly advised by PM Imran Khan and the army Chief General Qamar Bajwa to “strengthen yourself economically.” Once that happens then many outsiders will themselves reach out to get your issues with India resolved, Xi said. The Chinese leadership, it seems, has also drilled into the minds of our leaders that development of the east-west corridor (Wagha-Torkham) was key to Pakistan’s overall economic progress and very much in synch with China’s Road and Belt Initiative. This probably was a suggestion not to let the Kashmir dispute obstruct trade corridors between India-Pakistan-Afghanistan. As far back as in 1996 – when Kashmir insurgency had just begun straining Indo-Pak relations – Chinese President Jiang Zemin had delivered a similar advice to his hosts in Islamabad, indirectly suggesting to put Kashmir on the back burner in the larger interest of the country and the region. One wonders if Pakistan as a whole is at all ready to follow China’s and Turkey’s pragmatic approach or will keep bleeding from policies that are anchored more in emotions and jingoism than in pragmatism? It is not as much about looking at Israel favorably as it is about the large majority of the countries which maintain diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. UAE has given us the first rude shock by suspending work visas for Pakistani workers. No surprise if Saudia, Bahrain and Qatar also follow suit. That would mean several million Pakistanis losing employment in these countries, depriving the country of at least 10 billion dollars in remittances every year.