It is important to not antagonise Iran, and we appear to be doing just that. Iran is one of the key allies that Pakistan has within the region, and in order to counter India’s attempt to isolate Pakistan; it is necessary that we have cordial ties with our neighbour. While the protection of Saudi Arabia is very dear to us, it must also be understood that in times of conflict, the support of our immediate neighbours is essential.

The Saudi led military alliance against terrorism, headed by Retired General Raheel Sharif has already sidelined Iran. Pakistan had previously decided to not interfere or take sides in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen (a close ally of Iran) but joined the military alliance – a decision whose practicality is debatable. Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan, Mehdi Honardoost, clearly stated that the country had reservations against the Saudi led alliance. An intelligent move would have been to act as an intermediary to resolve the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. If the Muslim world has to actually join hands together to fight terrorism, how can it justify leaving aside Iran, Iraq and Syria.

And there’s more trouble ahead after the recent attack on nine Iranian border guards. The terrorists have not yet been identified and fled deep within Pakistan. This was the first incident that led to Iran expressing its regret over such incidents at such a high level. President Rouhani himself urged the Pakistani government to investigate the situation and confront the terrorists in order to preserve the friendly ties between the two countries.

Despite the Shia community being regularly targeted in Pakistan, and Pakistan’s outright support to Saudi Arabia over Iran; Iran seems to have kept to itself and not been interfered in the affairs of Pakistan and South Asia. It was the right move to revive the hotline between the border forces of the two nations to resolve all issues, and to emphasise the importance of fraternal relations with Iran. There are several arenas in which the two countries can cooperate; signing of the Banking and Payment Agreement (BPA) between the central banks of the two states to facilitate trade was one. At the same time, declaring Gwadar and Chabahar as sister ports will improve the bilateral ties.

But the coming storm may be that of Pakistan’s role in the Saudi Alliance and its nature. We have to be prepared with a diplomatic strategy in case actions of the Alliance end up affecting our neighbour.