Ours is a tricky spot. Our friendship with Saudi carries the potential to taint our friendship with Iran and so we are in the middle struggling to find a balance that is not only essential for our external bilateral ties but also for national security. Added to this equation is the stalled deal of a multi-billion dollar pipeline with Iran that we have not exactly arrived to a coherent conclusion for. Furthermore, our relationship plummeted when five Iranian border guards were abducted by militants and allegedly taken into Pakistan. In a bid to recover its soldiers, Iran threatened to send its forces into Balochistan claiming that Pakistan had been stagnant in addressing the issue. The twist here is even more unnerving: the group that kidnapped the guards are Iran-based Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl who, according to Iran, had entered Pakistan.

Our relationship with Saudi requires us to turn a cold shoulder to our western neighbor and the basis for this tacit approach is predicated on sectarian lines. Given how strife our country already is when it comes to theological clashes, this requisite of loyalty comes at a heavy price. Saudi’s very own national performance of treating migrant Pakistani workers is less than commendable; thousands of Pakistanis are currently detained in deportation centers. Although an agreement has been signed with PIA to facilitate the repatriation of the detainees, little can be said of those legally living in Saudi while enduring structural violence at the hands of local employers.

Pakistani-Saudi Arabian defense cooperation meetings also play a significant role in taking Iran further away from Pakistan wherein Riyadh intends to purchase military arms from Islamabad for Syrian opposition forces. It is, in simple words, a messy puddle to be standing in. Ideally, our approach should involve a holistic understanding of the ground politics of each country and how we, as a key player of regional peace and stability, cannot afford any kind of duplicity. It is obvious that all three nations share a lot more in common in terms of socio-cultural ties than state-sanctioned differences. With how the Syrian civil war is rapidly spilling into the region along with the upcoming NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, bilateral cooperation for all three countries becomes even more crucial to maintain calm within and across the borders. Diametrically opposed interests will only spell more instability and that simply is not a viable option.