Recent diplomatic progress between Saudi Arabia and Iran has raised hopes for lasting peace in the Middle East. Despite years of animosity, both states have expressed a willingness to engage in talks and find common ground.
The Saudi-Iran deal could have positive implications for Pakistan, a key player in the region, which has historically managed to maintain a delicate balance between its relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran.
While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a strong bond due to shared religious and cultural interests, Saudi Arabia has also provided vital economic aid during tough times. Meanwhile, Iran shares a long border with Pakistan and has deep cultural ties, making it an important neighbor.
Additionally, the protracted hostilities in Yemen may be subject to the vicissitudes of the ameliorated relations between both states. Therefore, a new agreement, facilitated by China, for peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran recently strengthened the Yemen agreement. To reach an agreement that restores air connectivity between Riyadh and Tehran, re-establishes diplomatic missions, and strengthens economic cooperation, the foreign ministers of the two countries met in Beijing.
Recently, the erudite Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, engaged in a telephonic discourse with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and conveyed his warm felicitations on the commendable normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as espoused in the “Trilateral Joint Statement.” The Foreign Minister lauded the sagacious leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in this positive development.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister also held a telephonic colloquy with the esteemed Foreign Minister of Iran, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and commended the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which stands as a testament to the sagacity and foresight of the leadership of both states. Furthermore, he applauded the instrumental role China played in facilitating this process, as expressed through the Joint Trilateral Statement signed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China on March 10 in Beijing.
Moreover, a plausible convergence between Saudi Arabia and Iran has substantial implications for Pakistan’s foreign policy. Should the two regional powers succeed in reconciling their long-standing animosity, Pakistan could potentially forge closer relationships with both states, founded on common economic and strategic interests.
Closer ties with KSA could generate much-needed investment and bilateral economic collaboration, while improved ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran could grant Pakistan access to Central Asia, thereby bolstering its energy security.
Undoubtedly, enhancing bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia would yield significant economic benefits for Pakistan. As Iran and Saudi Arabia represent two of Pakistan’s principal trade partners, forging closer economic ties could potentially unlock novel business prospects for the country. Moreover, a thaw in relations between these two regional powers would facilitate the stabilization of crude oil prices, which would immensely benefit Pakistan’s energy sector.
Despite Pakistan’s traditionally dispassionate position on the conflict, the progression of cordiality between Saudi Arabia and Iran could potentially give Pakistan an opportunity to assume a more proactive role in the search for a resolution. The economy of Pakistan will benefit, however, if the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran improve. Pakistan’s largest trading partner, Saudi Arabia, provides significant trade and investment opportunities in the infrastructure and energy sectors, particularly in Iran. For businesses and entrepreneurs in Pakistan, a more stable and cooperative relationship between these two states may open up new opportunities.
Meanwhile, given the participation of Pakistan and India in important infrastructure projects in Iran, improved relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia could benefit the region’s economic growth. One of these initiatives is the development of the Chabahar port in southeast Iran, which India has already committed to assisting as part of a larger connectivity corridor intended to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia. Similarly, another significant project that may be able to provide Pakistan with the much-needed energy security it needs is the completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, which is currently only partially built. Although there have been many obstacles in the way of this project’s completion in the past, such as sanctions against Iran and security issues in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, a warming of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia might make things easier.
However, if the long-standing conflicts between the two nations are not resolved, Pakistan’s security and stability may be in jeopardy. Pakistan has suffered significantly as a result of the ongoing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen. Any intensification of hostilities between the two countries could have serious ramifications for Pakistan by escalating sectarian tensions and fanning the flames of extremism and violence.
Nadir Ali holds a degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies from the National Defense University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He has written for Modern Diplomacy, Pakistan Observer, Pakistan Today, and numerous other publishers. He tweets at @hafiznadirali7 and can be reached at email@example.com