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Pakistan: Establishing Balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sarah Sajid
Research Analyst on International Affairs

Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world, and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.(Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, February 1948)

Being a Muslim state, one of the most important parts of Pakistan's foreign policy determinant is to develop fortified relationship on the basis of brotherhood with every Muslim state. Hence, before concluding any step towards development of foreign activities, Pakistan inevitably keeps her Muslim neighboring states and their interests, on top of her priority list. Among these states from West, Pakistan shares her border with Iran, which is 909 km long, and regards her, as a first independent state, to recognize her emancipation from British rule. Another Islamic state, with whom she enjoys amicable and ideological relationship, is Saudi Arabia.

Keeping in view, the current situation in Middle East, especially of Yemen, things are getting crucial and emerging threats to the regional and global security are increasing day by day. Recently Saudi's decision to establish a military coalition, with collaboration of nine other states had raised a question over the future implication of regional powers' policy. In terms of its strategic value, Yemen provides the shortest way to Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, through Bab ul Mandeb, which certainly attracts the other powers to play their role in ongoing Yemen crisis.

In recent scenario, Iran's support to Houthis, a rebel group which had ousted the dynasty of Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi, had seriously made Saudi Arabia concerned about the ongoing unpredictable situation. Further, growing Iranian influence over the Middle Eastern states has also made Saudis to seriously consider the sensitivity of situation. 

Pakistan carries a decisive position for changing the regional scenario. Pakistan’s current ruling government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, shares brotherly relationship with Saudi Arabia, so keeping their ties under consideration, it was expected by Saudis that Pakistan will no matter support her on any cause. For this purpose, in a recent visit to Pakistan, Saudi King Salman had requested her to join hands in Muslim led military coalition for the restoration of peace in Yemen. Pakistan considering her historical legacy with both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as being a part of trade routes before they got their independence, and having  religious affinity, with the later one, had decided to remain neutral. 

Though Pakistan's based Jamaat Ud Dawa, which was banned in 2002, as being an organization involved in myriads of terrorists attack, especially in Mumbai attack, has a strong support towards Saudis coalition of Muslim states. They are active on every social website making it sure to gain as much public support over different issues, as they can. So keeping this in mind, few observers considers it as one of the important factors in influencing Pakistan's decision over the issue. It certainly doesn't have such serious implication which will provide a worrisome point to Pakistan, for experiencing an ambiguous situation while making any decision regarding to establishing a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

That was not the first time Pakistan had opted such policy of neutralization, and if we go back into the history, we will definitely see similar initiatives of Pakistan, during the Zia ul Haq’s, (6th president of Pakistan) administration, when in Arab-Israeli war Pakistan preferred to stay neutral, by sending her troops to holy places in Saudi Arabia, to protect them from any foreign invasion. That stance had showed Pakistani concern towards her relations with the Muslim states.

From internal and external security perspective, three main reasons are key points which play a pivotal role in making Pakistan more firm about her decision of staying aloof from Middle Eastern politics. First, Pakistan's own domestic crisis, under the heading of growing apprehensions from sectarianism, growing economic disparities and ethnic strives in her provinces, certainly curtails her decision of joining any future coalition, on the basis of any foreign agenda. Secondly, Pakistan's concern with the ongoing gas pipeline project with Iran, which is of 2775 Km long pipeline system, matters a lot to quench her thirst for energy. Though, this project has already been completed by Iran but due to some impediments, Pakistan was unable to complete it on due deadline, which was expected to be 2013. So she can’t take a risk to lose such a step towards development by offending the key partner of this project, by supporting the other side. Thirdly, as it's been discussed already that Pakistan being a Muslim state, shares a good reputation and ties with the Muslim community, and never misses a chance to support them unanimously, cannot think to support any other party on stake of the other one, because she is well familiar with the consequences, which will ultimately lead towards imbalanced situation, leaving her in a blind alley.

So after taking the option of “War against terrorism”, which had horrendous impact upon Pakistan's domestic condition, she had taken a prudent stance by declaring her passive approach towards this issue, while paying serious attention to her relationship with two powerful Muslim entities, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Hopefully, in a similar way of 1974, when President Zia ul Haq, had organized a meeting of OIC in Islamabad, to discuss few major issues of Muslim world, by providing them a platform for their unanimous consent, She will play the same role as a mediator to settle the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia, for the fortification of Muslim brotherhood and community.

Photo Credit: ABC Maps

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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