Non-Arab Muslim nations in Asia are getting caught in the middle after Saudi Arabia led a clampdown on Qatar, accusing the tiny emirate of supporting pro-Iranian Islamist militants.
Malaysia had rolled out the red carpet for Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the end of February, the first by a Saudi king to Malaysia in more than a decade. Then, the following month, Kuala Lumpur signed a defence cooperation agreement with Qatar.
A source close to the Malaysian government said that the recent efforts to strengthen ties with Qatar, including a visit by the foreign minister last month, will probably now be put on the backburner.
"We have more to lose by siding with Qatar," said the source, who requested anonymity.
On Monday, a half-dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain, cut diplomatic ties with the energy-rich emirate, accusing it of backing Tehran and Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has said it does not support terrorism and the rupture was founded on "baseless fabricated claims."
Doha now faces an acute economic plight as it relies on Gulf neighbours for 80% of its food imports.
Qatar airlines using Iranian air space after relations cut with Saudi Arabia, neighbors. https://t.co/VwJHKChIvH #QatarCrisis #QatarAirways pic.twitter.com/JScEYFrag2 — Press TV (@PressTV) June 5, 2017
Sunni-majority Pakistan maintains deep links with the establishment in Riyadh, which provided Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with political asylum after he was ousted in a 1999 military coup.
But with a large Shia minority and a shared western border with Iran, Pakistan has a lot to lose from rising sectarian tensions. In 2015, Pakistan declined a Saudi call to join a Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen to fight Iranian-allied insurgents.
Pakistan has maintained official silence about the latest rift in the Arab world, loathe to be seen taking sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan also has close ties with Qatar itself, including a 15-year agreement signed last year to import up to 3.75 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year from the emirate, a major step in filling Pakistan’s energy shortfall.
Qatar's foreign minister responds to allegations by Saudi Arabia and the UAE behind the GCC diplomatic crisis https://t.co/xYPx23Y8NW pic.twitter.com/vQLEKJVhwj — Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 6, 2017
Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case which is now being investigated by several countries including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.
During King Salman's visit to Malaysia, Saudi oil giant Aramco agreed to buy a $7 billion equity stake in Malaysian state energy firm Petronas' major refining and petrochemical project.
But Qatar has also invested between $12 billion and $15 billion in Malaysia, according to media reports.
RSIS' Dorsey said non-Arab Muslim countries like Malaysia would be "put on the spot" if the Saudis demand that its trade partners pick a side.