“Pakistan’s move is deliberate to create Shia-Sunni conflict,” foreign policy experts on missile strikes on Iran

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Pakistan launching retaliatory strikes inside Iran, a day after Iranian forces attacked what it said were militant bases inside Pakistan territory could be a deliberate move by Islamabad to create Shia-Sunni conflict, according to experts.

Defence expert Qamar Agha has said that it looks like the tensions between the two countries are taking a new turn.

“It looks like the tensions between the two countries are escalating and taking a new turn. Pakistan’s response to the attack two of the Baloch ethnic militant groups, they said that these were the two groups were interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs, whereas Iran was accusing Jaish al-Adl of interfering with that of Tehran’s,” Agha told ANI.

He said that while Iran would attempt to diffuse tensions Pakistan on the other hand was trying to please those people who do not want Tehran to play a role in the region.

Providing a brief overview of the situation, Agha said, “Let’s wait and see how Iranians are behaving…I believe Iran may not escalate the situation and would like to diffuse it. Iran’s main concentration at the moment is the Persian Gulf or West Asia. They would not want to open another front in this region.”

“Secondly, Pakistan’s move is deliberate to create Shia-Sunni conflict and promote itself as the leader of the Muslims in the Arab world. Because Pakistan’s leadership would not be accepted by any Muslims of the Arab world. We don’t know how far this will go. Pakistan is trying to please those people who do not want Iran to play a role in this region,” he said.

On Iran and Pakistan being the neighbours of India, he said, “India is maintaining very friendly relations with Iran, our External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar recently visited Iran, besides this region is very important to us because it is very close to India. India was a neighbour to India before the partition or establishment of Pakistan.”

“We believe in the settlement of disputes through negotiation…especially PM Modi has also said that the ‘age of war is over’. This is the time to settle disputes through negotiation. and, India believes in peace and development of the region, not in war,” the defence expert said.

Another foreign policy expert, Michael Kugelman has said that it was an appropriate time for for third-party mediation as Pakistan has retaliated with an air strike at Iran.

In a post on X, he wrote, “With Pakistan now having retaliated militarily against Iran, now is the time for third-party mediation to ensure that a sudden but increasingly dangerous crisis doesn’t spiral out of control. Beijing is the most logical intermediary and it has the capacity & leverage to succeed.”

Pakistan said on Thursday that it launched missile strikes into Iran and that “a number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” codenamed “Marg Bar Sarmachar”.

The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in a statement that it had undertaken a series of “highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts” in the Siestan-o-Baluchistan province of Iran.

Pakistan’s military action comes after it condemned Tuesday’s strike by Iran, which it said killed two children.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said that in its engagements with the neighbouring country Iran over the last several years, Pakistan has consistently shared its serious concerns about the safe havens and sanctuaries enjoyed by Pakistani-origin terrorists who called themselves “Sarmachars” on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran.

“Multiple reports are indicating that Pakistan has conducted cross-border strikes against Baloch militants based in Iran. Pakistan wasted little time in trying to restore deterrence after Iran’s strike on Pakistan-based militants on Tuesday,” Kugelman said.

He said that the retaliatory strike could produce a rally-around-the-flag effect now. “Don’t overlook the political boost Pakistan’s military could get from this retaliation against Iran. Its crackdown on Imran Khan and his party has stoked public anger against the Army. The retaliatory strike could produce a rally-around-the-flag effect, even if a momentary one,” he wrote on X.

Michael Kugelman is the writer of Foreign Policy’s weekly South Asia Brief. He is the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Iran state news agency IRNA cited Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman condemning Pakistan’s attack on a border point in southeastern Iran.

The Iranian foreign ministry has summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires to protest against the missile attack, Nasser Kanaani said on Thursday, IRNA reported

Following the missile attack from Pakistan, nine, including three women, four children and two men who were not Iranian nationals were killed, it said.

After the attack , Pakistan said Iran is a brotherly country and the people of Pakistan have great respect and affection for the Iranian people. “We have always emphasised dialogue and cooperation in confronting common challenges including the menace of terrorism and will continue to endevaour to find joint solutions,” it said.

The move comes a day after Tehran said it used “precision missile and drone strikes,” to destroy two “important headquarters” of Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) in Pakistan. Following this Islamabad denounced the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty as “completely unacceptable” and warned of serious consequences.

On Wednesday, Pakistan expelled the Iranian ambassador and recalled its ambassador to Iran.

Pakistan has decided to recall its ambassador from Iran and that the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan who is currently visiting Iran may not return for the time being,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said while addressing a press briefing in Islamabad yesterday.

Pakistan’s caretaker Foreign Minister, Jalil Abbas Jilani in a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian underscored that the January 16 attack conducted by Iran inside Pakistani territory was not only a serious breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty but was also an egregious violation of international law and the spirit of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Expressing Pakistan’s unreserved condemnation of the attack, Jilani added that the incident has caused serious damage to bilateral ties between Pakistan and Iran.

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