Canada’s protest in response to arrest of women human rights activist by Saudi regime led to diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
• Canadian Foreign Minister C. Freeland wrote a tweet in support of women human rights activists Samar Badawi, who is fighting against guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia.
• In response to this, Saudi Arabia broke off all diplomatic ties with Canada, expelled Canadian Ambassador, called back its envoy from Ottawa, froze trade ties with Canada and advocated for transferring out some 12000 Saudi students studying in Canada.
• Human right versus state sovereignty: Once again it brought back to the discussion table the principle of “Responsibility to Protect” in International Relations.
• Reformist approach vs Status quo: It questions the social reform agenda of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who came to throne last year. The current tension shows the resistance of traditional societies to socio-political reform for values like liberty and equality,
• Arab Exceptionalism: Western thinkers brought this concept to portray that Arab Islamic countries are incompatible to democratic ethos. It remains to be seen whether it is just a thesis or a complete reality.
• Role of social media: The diplomatic crisis shows the growing influence of social media as a twitter is playing a significant row in this diplomatic crisis.
Impact on Stakeholders:
• For Canada, it may prove costly as Saudi Arabia is Canada’s second largest export destination in West Asia and some 10 per cent of Canadian crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia.
• For Saudi Arabia, its International reputation is at stake as a newly emerged social reformist Islamic country. Further, Saudi Arabia cannot afford to be in dispute with neighborhood such as Lebanon, Qatar and Yemen as well as some pivotal western democracies such as Canada, Germany and Sweden at the same time.
• On India: With growing uncertainty in West Asia, it may affect India’s national interest such as energy security.
• On World: The trend of reversal of democratic values, increasing appreciation for populist policies, growing authoritarianism shows the emergence of post-truth world.
• The role played by social media in foreign policy decision-making indicates existing trust deficit between Nations.
• The kingdom of Saudi Arabia should show leniency towards advocates of human rights if it is sincere about it’s a social reform agenda. It should learn not to be reactionary by deft balancing of both dissent and diplomacy.