Pakistan may have joined the Saudi Arabia-led 34-nation coalition against terrorism, but it will not support any move that destabilises Syria or strains Islamabad’s relationship with Tehran, senior Foreign Office officials said on Wednesday.
According to them, the assurance came from the federal government during an in-camera session of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry attended the meeting presided over by committee chairperson Senator Nuzhat Sadiq.
Pakistan’s stakes in Saudi-sponsored coalition
The meeting discussed the decision of the government to join the Saudi-led coalition and its possible implications for Pakistan.
According to insiders, some committee members voiced concerns over the government’s decision of joining the Saudi alliance without taking parliament into confidence. Their apprehensions stemmed from fears that the newly-formed alliance might be used against Syria and Iran.
However, FO officials, according to sources, dismissed such concerns and clarified that Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi coalition is only meant for efforts against terrorism.
Saudi-led anti-terror coalition: No decision yet on contributing troops, says Aziz
The official pointed out that Pakistan’s position on Syria remained clear that it was strictly opposed to foreign intervention for ousting the government of President Basharul Assad.
“We will continue to seek the political solution of the Syrian crisis,” the official added, allaying fears of some of the committee members.
The Saudi-led alliance is seen as an attempt by Riyadh to reassert itself at a time when realignments are taking place in the wake of the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran.
The committee members also warned the government that Saudi Arabia formed the alliance to counter Iran, something that carries huge implications.
However, FO officials insisted that Pakistan’s relations with Iran will not be affected by its decision to join Saudi coalition. “This coalition is not against any specific country,” explained the FO official.
Pakistan included in Saudi Arabia’s 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism
Pak-India FS meeting
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters here, Sartaj Aziz said Islamabad has proposed the foreign secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India to take place in mid-January.
The talks between the top diplomats are part of the understanding reached between the two countries during the recent visit of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan during which the two sides revived the composite dialogue.
“We are now waiting for the Indian response to our proposal,” the adviser added.
The meeting, expected to take place in Islamabad, will draw a road map for a series of meetings between the officials of the two countries to discuss issues covered under the comprehensive bilateral dialogue.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2015.