The meetings between the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet, must have prioritised one pressing issue- that of the escalating hostility between Iran with the United States and its Gulf allies.

Though the topic of the Iranian-US escalation had been a world headline for the past week, Pakistan had not given a proper stance on it. This is why this visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister was so important- it was ahead of next week’s emergency Arab League meeting called by Saudi Arabia over regional tensions, making it clear that Iran wanted Pakistan’s assistance in de-escalating the tensions with Saudi Arabia and push a stance out of Pakistan. Pakistan has conveyed the approach it will be taking in this potential conflict in our neighbourhood, and that approach is one of conciliation and diplomacy. Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal had said that issues between Iran and the US, plus its Arab allies, had to be resolved through dialogue. Furthermore, during delegation-level talks between the Pakistani and Iranian sides on Friday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi noted that regional tension was in no one’s interest. He stated that Pakistan wants resolution of all outstanding issues through diplomatic engagement.

This statement, coming from Pakistan, is revealing considering our unique position as a firm ally of Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is also a huge stakeholder in the Afghan Peace process initiated by the United States to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, and plays an instrumental part in facilitating any dialogue between Afghan factions and the US officials. With these roles in mind, any stance by Pakistan towards peace with Iran, at a time when the US and Gulf allies are so hostile towards the idea, can have a great impact. Pakistan can leverage its friendship with Saudi Arabia to cool down tensions with Iran, since conflict in the Persian region would be disastrous for the whole of South Asia. 

This stance of diplomacy and dialogue might have been a difficult position to take for Pakistan, considering the high stakes we have with Saudi Arabia, yet it is necessary for our own regional development. Friendship with Iran brings us many instrumental benefits, especially for our economy and tourism. Connecting Chabahar and Gwadar port could lead to connecting our entire rail road system from Iran to the north corridor through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey