The Pakistan government has strongly condemned the deadly attack on the Indian Air force’s Pathankot Airbase and promised cooperation, especially to maintain the spirit of personal cordial relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Premier Narendra Modi. National Security Advisers of two countries are in touch and it is hoped that the scheduled Foreign Secretary level talks will not be in danger. The two nuclear-armed countries have no choice except for dialogue to resolve their troubling and difficult problems. The environment of conflict and instability must be changed into cooperation for stability. Culture of peace and progress is essential for the region to guarantee prosperity and raising the level of living of the people. If the Foreign Secretary-level talks are held according to the schedule it would be a strong defiant message to the agents of doom and gloom who are upto creating chaos and uncertainty. Diplomatic initiatives must continue in spite of adverse circumstances. Terrorism should be accepted as a common enemy to be cut at its roots through cooperative joint action of India and Pakistan.

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Modi has asked Nawaz Sharif to take quick action. Nawaz has pledged investigation into any leads or information provided by India. Prime Minister of Pakistan has appreciated the maturity shown by the Indian government in its statements issued after the sad incident. He pointed out to the Indian Prime Minister that whenever a serious effort for bringing peace between the two countries was underway, the terrorists tried to derail the process. Nefarious designs of the terrorists could be defeated only through cordial, cooperative and meaningful relations between India and Pakistan. Speaking to diplomats, parliamentarians and intellectuals in Colombo, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it was time for South Asian countries to focus their energies on better preparing themselves to handle the global challenges. He said, ‘Cooperation, not confrontation’ was his government’s policy and he believed in promoting harmony with all South Asian courtiers.

Sectarian fever is a big challenge that could be projected on to international level to mar global efforts to contain and curb terrorism. The rising of sectarian fever is not restricted to Iran and Saudi Arabia, with anger rising in Shia communities across the region, reflected not only in the statements of leaders but also in protests in Pakistan, Iraq and many other countries. Reaction to executions in Saudi Arabia, mostly involving Shias, specially a Shia Cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has been wide spread. Pakistan has advocated peaceful resolution of the matter. What has happened goes against the required unity to counter heightened terrorist threats, especially arising from the so called ‘Islamic State’. Some analysts advocate, the west should get out of the Middle East. I would buy the view that ‘the west no longer finds Middle Eastern Countries as attractive an investment opportunity as it once did. Much of the region is becoming dysfunctional. Even the more prosperous parts run large fiscal and external deficits, maintain huge and inefficient Civil Services, and spend heavily on subsidies’.

At the end of the day sectarian wars play no useful role, rather deteriorate the humanitarian scenario. Who does not know of murderous religious wars of Catholics versus Protestants that devastated Europe in the 17th and 18th Century, the difference in point of view indicate and suggest need to tolerance, sense of accommodation and more importantly understanding self and others. Tensions continue to increase if these simple principles of interaction and interrelations are put aside. Outside advice and negotiations could make useful contribution by not providing guns and bombs to this side or that side.

The United States and Europe are often thought of interfering with their negative impact. But there is the other view as well that the United States and Europe do not need Saudi Arabia like they used to. Oil fracking technology has diminished the strategic value of Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States. The belief is that Saudis have subordinated the suppression of Jihadism to the goal of overthrowing Assad — a more reportedly against the American wish. Political analysts are of the view that Saudi Arabia and its local allies and enemies should be left to work themselves out of their Quagmire without outside interference. As in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, it is in the chaotic aftermath of conflict the outsiders run out of solutions as how to stabilize the political and religious turbulence unleashed by war.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have put the entire Middle East as well as Pakistan in a conundrum. The timing of this conflict could not be more crucial for the region, when just a month ago there was agreement over holding talks to end the Yemen Crisis and Syria was supposed to follow suit.

The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is not new, and the world at large, Pakistan especially, has suffered at the hands of the two rival countries’ religious, ideological and political quest for dominance ever since 1979. The weapon of choice for both countries has been propping up proxies and funding ideological propaganda in other Muslim-majority countries to the detriment of the sectarian harmony and stability of the region. The trend to divide the Muslim States on sectarian grounds is unfortunate. In fact the need is for the two brotherly countries specially and all Muslim States to work for intra faith as well as inter-faith harmony for regional and world peace and security. Any anti-terrorism alliance of Muslim States should clearly avoid any kind of sectarian bias.

It is satisfying to note that hither to Pakistan has been able to strike a careful balance between not antagonizing Saudi Arabia and maintaining cordial ties with Iran. With the experience of Pakistan in view this has been a most sensible approach. Any provocation from any quarters can play hell with the already troubled Muslim Uma. In an environment of international terrorism and extremism there is need to proceed with caution sadly the recent vilification of Sartaj Aziz in parliament by opposition leaders for not showing diplomatic “leadership” was in bad taste and uncalled for. Remaining out of the messy trap we have the opportunity to play a significant mediatory role at some stage in the coming days.

Pakistan needs a new perspective or a frame of reference to understand and explain what is happening around and with the government and the people of Pakistan. Mind set determines the direction and goals. We have to raise meaningful questions as part of research and analysis for smart assumptions and valid conclusions on politics, diplomacy, economy and Pakistan’s domestic and international relations.