Friends not Masters

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The Yemen crisis has dominated the headlines for over two weeks now as the Saudi-Led offensive continues to spill blood and exacerbate an already volatile situation. Pakistan’s role in this conflict still remains undefined as the issue continues to be discussed in the National Assembly with no signs of a conclusion being reached on how Pakistan should tactfully respond to Saudi Arabia’s request.

The Iranian Foreign Minister on his trip to Islamabad conducted meetings with Sartaj Aziz and the Prime Minister, where he expressed his desire for Pakistan and Turkey to convince Saudi Arabia to cease ongoing air strikes on Yemen. However, sources report that the Kingdom is willing to hold talks on its own terms with the reinstatement of Yemen’s president, something that the Iranian government is unlikely to agree to.

With the Iranian delegation visiting the capital and expressing its desire for resolving this crisis via negotiations, it would be extremely naïve for Pakistan to choose sides in struggle for power. Apart from trite point that Pakistan cannot afford to be a part of this war taking into account its own internal security situation, there are a number of other compelling reasons as to why remaining neutral would serve its interests best.

Firstly, this will not be the first time that Pakistan will be sending its troops to the Kingdom. However, it has not gotten itself involved in an external conflict on behalf of the host country. More importantly, what is Saudi Arabia expecting to achieve out of this offensive? Even if it succeeds in restoring the ousted Yemeni president to power, there will no end to this conflict. As a matter of fact, this military intervention would further provoke anti-Saudi resistance in a country where various factions are jockeying for influence as a power vacuum exists. Moreover, one has to be cognizant of the fact that militias can be scattered easily, but it does not take them very long to regroup. Pakistan has experienced this itself in its war against terror. Do the Saudi’s have a long-term strategy in place to tackle the situation that would arise once they reinstate a president that hardly has any clout remaining in the country?

On a side note, the upcoming Iran nuclear agreement has given Pakistan the incentive to complete the construction of the Pak-Iran gas pipeline. China has agreed to build the pipeline as the final deal is expected to be signed during the visit of the Chinese President later this month. Therefore, Iran may use the pipeline as a trump card if Pakistan ignores its request to avoid being part of the Saudi-led offensive. Taking the above points into consideration, Pakistan needs to make its decision by putting its own interests first; and more importantly, keeping in mind that the Saudi’s are ‘friends’ and not ‘masters’.


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