Speakers say country grapples with the complexities posed by proxy conflicts

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a roundtable highlighted Pakistan’s ongoing challenge of being a battleground for proxy conflicts, here on Saturday. The Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) hosted a session titled ‘Pak-Iran relations amidst the threat of broader conflict.’

Managed by PICSS Managing Director Abdullah Khan, the session featured speakers such as former ambassador to Iran Khalid Mahmood, ex-defense minister retired Lt-Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi, and Faraz Naqvi, in charge of the Iran Programme at the Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad.

Ambassador Mahmood underscored the enduring challenges faced by Pakistan as a ‘battleground’ for proxy conflicts, particularly involving Shia-Sunni proxies. He noted that despite occasional strains, the relationship between Pakistan and Iran had remained resilient for many years. However, post-1979 saw a downturn driven by sectarian factors and suspicions in Iran regarding Pakistan’s potential alignment with American imperialism.

General Lodhi discussed recent geopolitical developments, including the improvement and subsequent strain in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He mentioned that tensions resurfaced due to the Hamas attack, impacting ties with Arab states. The intervention of China, Turkey, and Russia added a diplomatic dimension to the complex scenario, with the swift escalation and de-escalation hinting at a potential disconnect between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the political government.

Faraz Naqvi provided insights into Iran’s governance model, describing it as a theocratic republic with a unique blend of nationalism, revolutionary ideology, and pragmatism. Examining recent events through the lens of pragmatism, he outlined potential motivations behind Iran’s actions, including retaliatory responses, signaling capabilities to Israel and the West, and preemptive action due to concerns about Pakistan joining a U.S.-led naval coalition.

Abdullah Khan echoed concerns over historical instances where Iran violated Pakistani sovereignty. He added that unlike past responses, Pakistan chose assertive measures this time in response to Iran celebrating its actions.