IT is time for Pakistan to collaborate with Israel for reasons that are pragmatic, not political. The current discussion on this subject is timely. Pakistan’s non-recognition of Israel has not materially helped the Palestinian cause. It has, however, held back Pakistan from adjusting and adapting to new realities in practical recognition of Pakistan’s own interests.
Israel, today, has the world’s second largest high-tech industry, after Silicon Valley. This includes AgTech technology to improve agricultural outcomes and for the provision of clean water.
As with Singapore, Israel is far more important in the region than its size would suggest.
In a multipolar world, Israel is also more independent and less constrained by the United States, and is aggressively building links to countries in Pakistan’s neighbourhood. This notably includes China.
There are other points that deserved consideration as well.
One, Arab states have been working quietly with Israel for years. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan now formally recognise Israel. Given Pakistan’s indirect interest in the Palestinian cause and the splintered Arab front, there is every reason for Pakistan to now put its own economic and strategic interests first.
Two, Chinese investment in Israel’s booming high-tech industry has been accelerating. China knows well that the future lies in an investment in brainpower, not buildings, and Pakistan’s entrepreneurs are second to none. With Pakistan’s growing middle class, rapidly advancing high-tech industry and motivated diaspora, Israeli and Chinese start-ups can further stimulate economic growth in Pakistan with expanded investment in Pakistan’s innovation and venture capital ecosystem, and through regional collaboration.
Three, a good working relationship with Israel can be an additional bridge for Pakistan to the US, irrespective of how the political winds blow. Israel has already long been at the table in discussions between the US and countries in the region.
Four, there is no underlying religious conflict between Jewish Israel and Muslim Pakistan. Jews are “people of the book”.
Silicon Valley has prospered because it sees people as individuals, and seeks to avoid discrimination except on the basis of competence. Technology simply moves too fast to do otherwise. I routinely work with companies whose founders are originally from India, Pakistan, Israel, Europe, China, Brazil and virtually every other country. As people get to know one another, they tend to find that what they have in common is more remarkable than their perceived differences.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020