Despite efforts to remain diplomatically neutral in the Saudi – Iran rift that has gripped the entire of Middle East, Pakistan succumbed to the interests of its long-standing ally and declared its stance in the conflict.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to be subtle during the talks with the Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday, calling for resolving its crisis with Iran through diplomacy and offering Pakistan’s good offices to ‘brotherly’ Muslim countries for resolution of their differences.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif reiterated that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a ‘strong response’ from Islamabad, leaving no room for confusion in the nature of the commitment offered. The stand is untestable and pragmatic, given our history, dependency on Arab oil and the fact that in contrast Iran doesn’t really enjoy good diplomatic relations with any country. We would like to see Iran prosper as a neighbor, and have good relations, but not at the cost of alienating the Kingdom.

However, Saudi defense policy under Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has become very aggressive. The man is said to be at the heart of the current conflict as well as the war in Yemen. At 29 he is already the world’s youngest defence minister and his power is not to be underestimated. The Prince is in the habit of getting exactly what he wants, no matter the cost. Prince Mohammed has in a very short amount of time added much to his achievements; he was appointed Defense Minister, put in charge of Aramco, the national energy company; made the head of a powerful new body, the Council for Economic and Development Affairs with oversight over every ministry; and put in charge of the kingdom’s public investment fund.

The Saudi Foreign Minister’s main topic of discussion was supposed to be to explore the role that Pakistan can play as a participant in the 34-member ‘Islamic anti-terror coalition’, a brainchild of Prince Salman. Pakistan has been strong-armed into joining this military coalition, naturally being a Sunni Muslim country with a highly professional standing army with over half a million active troops and another half million as reserves as well as being a nuclear power. Pakistan has been “wooed” after being reminded of Saudis’ benevolent role in helping out Pakistan in times of need and hence it was time to return that favour.

One can only hope that this stance that Pakistan has taken- willingly or not so willingly- does not create sectarian unrest in the country that many have warned of.