As far as regional relationships are concerned, Pakistan stands at a crossroads. The conflict in Yemen has put Pakistan on the spot and its resulting actions will dictate how its relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia will pan out. Both nations have a large stake in Yemen, and by extension, a stake in Pakistan’s decision to send troops to the embattled country. Over the past few days both nations have made diplomatic advances towards Islamabad to influence the decision-making process. Pakistan must ensure that its actions do not alienate any of the two contenders, most importantly; it must ensure that its decisions are made of its own free will and based on sound policies. It must resist and nullify actions that seek to force its hand.

On the eve of Iranian Foreign Minister’s, Mohammed Javad Zarif, two day visit to Islamabad – where Yemen will be the predominant issue – Eight Iranian border guards have been killed in a clash with Sunni rebels. According to Ali Asghar Mirshekari, deputy governor of Sistan-Balochistan province, the attacks originated from Pakistan’s side of the border. Tensions along the Iran-Pakistan border have been constant feature, mostly prompted by drug traffickers and Sunni extremist groups, and both countries have resolved to end this through better border management. The attack exposes the shortcomings of that resolve, but its most important ramifications are for Pakistan-Iran diplomatic relationship.

These cross border attacks have been a source of much bitterness amongst the two neighbours, and with their bilateral relations in flux at the moment; such an attack could – and was perhaps designed to – damage any nascent diplomatic understanding. The government must ensure that such misconceptions are cleared and the talks with Iran continue without the spectre of this event hanging over it. Balochistan has been the arena for proxy wars between the Sunni and Shia powers for quite some time, and this attacks hints at what could be in store if Pakistan picks a polarising position in the Yemen crisis.