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EDITORIAL: The Pakistani government deserves to be commended and congratulated for handling the crisis triggered by Iran’s unilateral strikes last week in the most practical, professional and progressive manner possible; that too under very trying circumstances.

First it recalled its ambassador from Iran and asked theirs, who was visiting his home country at the time, not to return “for the time being”. Then the Pakistani military conducted precise cross-border strikes of its own. And then, when the dust settled it turned out that Islamabad had already reached out to Tehran for an amicable solution, paving the way for the return of both ambassadors to their respective posts.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani also invited his counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, to visit Pakistan on Jan 29. This will be a truly landmark visit.

It’s clear that both sides have found a silver lining on the dark cloud that emerged a few days ago, and will now work to cleanse both sides of the border together. Both can do without the headache of repeated killing sprees of terrorists that litter the border region, especially since both are gripped with far bigger security concerns.

Pakistan faces a resurgent TTP, whose sanctuary inside Afghanistan when the Taliban government is not helping echoes the same dilemma that Pakistan and Iran recently faced with each other.

And Iran has gone out of its way to push itself neck-deep into the wider Middle East crisis triggered by Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. Iran-backed militias are harassing international shipping in the Red Sea and the Israeli military along the Lebanese border, and there is growing chatter about possible joint US-Israeli action against the Islamic republic.

That precisely is why the timing, if not also the intent, behind opening another hostile front with Pakistan was so shocking. And even if the Iranians realised a little late in the day that they had made a mistake, credit must still go to Pakistan for taking the lead in defusing the situation and initiating an urgently needed de-escalation.

These last few days should serve as a wakeup call for both Iran and Pakistan. So far, neither ever gave the other’s concerns about border infiltration the attention they deserved. Now that will quickly change, thankfully. But there is also a need for further, deeper engagement.

The world is changing very fast and Islamabad can no longer ignore the reality of Tehran’s existence right next door nor deny itself more beneficial commercial engagement because of other foreign policy compulsions.

Iran has dramatically changed its profile over the last few years. It is a central part, along with Russia and China, of the new order that is emerging to challenge America’s stranglehold on global politics and economics.

It has also buried the hatchet with Saudi Arabia and, for all intents and purposes, completely reset the political calculus of the entire Middle East region. Pakistan must also finally decide where it wishes to position itself in a world which demands a clear sense of direction from all countries that find themselves at crucial geopolitical crossroads.And going by the job well done over the last few days, it seems Pakistan is becoming clearer by the day about how it wants to position itself in the global order.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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