Pakistan has an extraordinary role in the regional niche-politics, which involves many players
Being the only Muslim majority country with nuclear weaponry, Pakistan’s significance in global geopolitics goes without saying. Furthermore, Pakistan has an extraordinary role in the regional niche-politics, which involves many players including, most importantly, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The differences between these two major players in the Middle East are beyond sectarian.
It is more like a struggle for the dominating power in region and beyond that. Being home to a Sunni majority and a significant Shi’ite minority population, Pakistan has endured nuisance of sectarian violence, funded by both Iran & KSA, which is ineffable.
However, there had been a dramatic variation when Pakistan relinquished its what-so-ever policy of diplomatic dormancy; and started behaving like a moderating variable to manage ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In domain of regional politics, that approach is the loftiest and the most logical thing Islamabad has done in decades. Over the last two years Pakistan’s foreign policy has started walking the fine line while keeping its relations with both, Iran and Saudi Arabia, in harmony.
In 2014, Pakistan cashed the Saudi Prince’s visit to point out the funded charade of religious fanaticism and soaring sectarianism. Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz told the national media that Pakistan has asked for Saudi help to “deal” with sectarianism issue during Prince Saud’s visit. By doing that, Pakistan gave a signal to Iran to establish its duty and play the remaining part. As reciprocity, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei had forbidden the use of impolitic language directed against holy figures from Islamic history that held in high regard by Sunnis.
Moreover, Pakistan’s modest stance got highlights when Riyadh demanded for direct military intervention. In April, 2015 Saudi Arabia officially requested Pakistan to become a military ally in the on-going conflict with Yemen.
Pakistan took the matter to the parliament and reached to the policy of non-intervention in military terms. Pakistan vowed to keep the holy places safe at any cost and exempted itself from getting involved in war. Though the stance was not appreciated by The Arab League but it was praised internationally, particularly by Iran.
After the Iran Nuclear Deal (preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensuring the peaceful use of the nuclear program), Pakistan’s foreign office responded adequately through Sartaj Aziz who told media that Pakistan has always been in favor of resolving Iran’s nuclear issue via dialogue. He further added that the agreement would, most probably, lead to economic growth along with an increase in trade between Iran and Pakistan.
In recent developments Pakistan & Iran agreed to maximize cooperation in trade, counter-terrorism on October 28, 2015. To maintain the ties on both ends, on October 30, 2015 Gen. Raheel Sharif visited National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), Pabbi near Jhelum and endorsed the crest of Pak–Saudi joint training exercise “Al-Shihab”.
Ultimately, we can’t change our neighbors so there’s that for Iran. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, Saudi Arabia is an opulent friend we can’t afford to abandon. As the fight between the two continues for influence in the Middle East and beyond, it is in best interests of Pakistan to work out a design to keep both the Saudis and Iranians in good terms.