Experts warn Pakistan to take care of its national interest over Middle East crisis

Economic Security is Pakistan’s top national security challenge, speakers

Amidst growing tension and evolving security situation in the Middle East, after the assassination of top Iranian commander Qasim Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike, Pakistan must be mindful of its economic security which is country’s top national interest and be very careful while taking any sides or staying neutral in the current conflict between Iran and the The United States.
Experts said this during a Special Talk titled “Changing Regional Security and Implications on US- Pakistan Relations”, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Monday at Islamabad.
Prof. Feroz Hassan Khan, Research Professor, Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California said that given the precarious economic situation, unfortunately, Pakistan is not sovereign enough to make any independent decision to take sides or to stay neutral in the recent conflict between Iran and the United States. He said that Pakistan’s top national security issue and the challenge is its economic security, without which the country would not be able to modernize its national security which is imperative for survival. Pakistan dependency on IMF programme, aid/financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, and FATF conditions are negatively affecting the country on foreign policy front, he added.
“The fraught situation in the Middle East is the ultimate test of Pakistan’s diplomacy,” said Prof. Feroz adding urged the country to kept certain priorities including continuing efforts in the Afghan peace process, preventing conflict/war with India and remained relevant in China’s BRI through successfully implementing/completions of CPEC projects.
Prof. Feroz said that those who support Trump’s decision to kill top Iranian commander argued that the assassination of Qasim Soleimani was an attempt from the US to re-establish deterrence to stop Iran from going beyond and crossing the red line. He said that there could be multiple reasons behind this killing including domestic politics in the States or to survive president impeachment. Regional security and power dynamics are changing and redefining to which Pakistan must be mindful, he added.
Prof. Feroz foretold three possible scenarios on Iran’s reaction amidst US-Iran conflict which include Asymmetric warfare (mainly using Hezbollah card by Iran), growing armed race in the region and thirdly, nuclear proliferation (i.e. Iran backing out from Nuclear Deal-JCPOA). Any one of these reactions would be a huge set back to the international security, and certainly would have serious implications on Pakistan, he said.
While responding to a question on unilateralism by the US in the current Middle East crisis, Prof. Feroz said this is the era of strong-henchman who most of the time use power to suppress the opposition, which exactly what Trump has done or Modi is doing in its own country and occupied Kashmir.
To a question on Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of Nuclear Weapons, Prof. Feroz was of view that Iran will remain in NPT as it has limited capacity to conduct Nuclear test and continue to the path of its nuclear programme as per provisions of the treaty.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI said that at the moment when the situation in the Middle East is very concerning and worrisome, Pakistan has to be very careful this time while weighing its options over the current conflict between Iran and the US. He said that Pakistan has to take care of its own interest first and tried to play its role in de-escalating the situation to avert greater chaos in the region. Otherwise, in case of any further escalation/conflict, then the whole region will have to pay the huge cost for decades to come.

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