Even before the latest Israeli aggression against Palestinians laid bare western nations’ selective approach to human rights, a public opinion survey published by BBC Arabic last year had indicated a shift in the Middle East, with implications for the rest of the world, including Pakistan.
According to the survey, 57 percent of Arab youths describe the U.S. as an “ally,” compared to 41 percent who see it as an “enemy.” By contrast, 70 percent see Russia as an ally compared to 26 percent who describe it as an enemy. A similar survey conducted—in nine Arab countries as well as Turkiye, Iran and Israel—by Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that in five countries, including “traditional” U.S. allies Egypt, Jordan and the U.A.E., the public had greater confidence in Russia than the U.S.
The same survey found all countries agreed that Europe relies on the U.S. for military protection, with seven of them against any larger European military presence in the region. Six countries affirmed the world is already multipolar and will become more-so, while three saw a shift in lingering unipolarity. Another opinion polls conducted by Arab Barometer for the BBC found China was more popular than the U.S. in eight of nine Arab countries. A key reason for the growing disenchantment with the U.S. was the Ukraine conflict, with a majority blaming the U.S. and E.U. for a war that has hurt the Middle East.
A commonality among all the surveys is a growing desire to see a reduced presence of Europe and the U.S. in the Middle East. At the same time, they see China’s growing influence as a positive, partly owed to the Belt and Road Initiative, which incorporates Pakistan through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Beijing also played a key role in reviving diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
To China’s benefit, it is seen as a non-colonial power focused on building economic relations—through trade—without political ambitions. In this new developing world order, Pakistan stands to benefit thanks to its “steadfast” ties with China, and also its relations with the Middle East, which remains a source of employment for its manpower.