Last month, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was on a three-day visit to Pakistan during which his veiled message about Pakistan-Saudi relations amid escalating regional tensions has again proved that India is the centre of gravity for coercive diplomacy against Pakistan.
Zarif likened Iran’s relations with India to Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia. “Our relations with India, just like Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia, are not against Pakistan as we understand Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia are not against Iran,” the crafty and skillful diplomat said.
Unveiling this veiled message is not difficult. In a nutshell, it shows clearly that for any sort of assistance coming from Pakistan for Saudis in any Saudi-Iran engagement would result in Iran’s free hand for India to use Iran’s soil against Pakistan. Further, it also hinted that Iran for Saudi Arabia is just like India for Pakistan—bitter enemies.
This is not the first instance where some country has used India as a tool of coercive diplomacy towards Pakistan. Pakistan’s seventy years history is full of episodes of coercion by using India as a threatening tool. Even Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), also, have used this tactic on a few occasions. With the launch of Saudi led offensive to quell the Houthi Rebellion in Yemen (2015), Pakistan was requested to send Army to warzone by Saudi Arabia and UAE. Pakistan’s Parliament’s resolution for not deploying troops for Yemen war infuriated them so much that UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said that Pakistan would have to pay a heavy price for that. They didn’t pay heed to Pakistan’s entanglement into War on Terror and Its ongoing fierce battle with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. After Pakistan’s refusal, Riyadh tilted more towards India. In a special gesture, Saudi Arabia conferred its highest civilian honour — the King Abdulaziz Sash — on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in 2016. Modi was first Indian to receive this honour. Later on, Pakistan sought to normalize relations with Saudis but that was just like walking a tightrope. Appointment of former Army Chief General (R) Raheel Sharif as Chief of Saudi led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), and quite recently fresh deployment of a thousand active duty military personnel in Saudi Arabia for “Train and advise” mission has enraged Tehran so much that It has started using coercion by using India.
With the onset of War on Terror (WoT), when Washington demanded Airbases from Pakistan, New Delhi jumped into the picture and offered United States (US) to use Indian bases to attack first Pakistan, then Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In that way, Pakistan was coerced by playing India Card. Pervez Musharraf, then president, later admitted that fear of US Aircrafts coming from Indian side violating Pakistan’s sovereignty was a major threat in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks.
Similarly, during Soviet-Afghan War (1979-89), Pakistan was under threat of being sandwiched by the Soviet Union and India, so Pakistan was forced to play its role according to the US policies.
In Cold War era (1947-91), though Pakistan was an ally to the US but the US sided with India on a lot of major issues. India enjoyed cordial relations with both Super Powers, i.e., Soviet Union and the United States. Pakistan remained an ambivalent friend of US throughout history. US’s U-2 spy aircrafts used to fly from Badaber Airbase near Peshawar to the Soviet Union for reconnaissance. Pakistan remained an ally in Cold War, the Soviet-Afghan War and now in Global War on Terror, but the US always remained conscious that Pakistan must not use American supplied weaponry against India even in wars.
Albeit, India as a coercion tool had been in use since long but Pakistan always managed to counter this in tactical ways, but this time problem with Pakistan is that only a few friends are left in its global circle. Militarily, Pakistan is extremely strong but failure on part of its Foreign Ministry in developing meaningful ties with major powers of the world has dragged it to fell a victim to coercion by many countries.