ISLAMABAD – Despite repeated efforts, Iran has declined Pakistan’s offer to join the Saudi-led military alliance headed by General Raheel Sharif, it emerged on Wednesday.
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According to a report by The Nation, senior officials at the foreign ministry expressed that Pakistan had been making efforts to persuade Iran to join the multi-nation alliance. However, since Saudi Arabia would be leading coalition, Iran fears that this will be an alliance of the Sunni states with some ‘hidden agenda’ instead of the joint efforts against terrorism.
An official at the foreign ministry said that Pakistan had been trying to clarify its position and convince Iran on the genuineness of the Saudi alliance’s agenda.
“We are continuing our efforts to satisfy Iran and tell them both Iran and Saudi Arabia are important for Pakistan. We are still hopeful of winning them over and making them part of the alliance,” he said.
The reports regarding Iran’s refusal to join alliance were confirmed by Press Attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Islamabad Abbas Badrifar who maintained that Iran was not considering to join the Saudi-led alliance as it did not buy the idea.
“There is no way we can become part of this alliance. As our ambassador said last week, we have our reservations (against the alliance). This alliance will not be helpful,” he said.
Badrifar said Muslim nations needed a peace alliance rather than a military alliance. “We don’t need more bloodshed. We need efforts for peace. We disagree with the basic idea of the military alliance,” he added.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have serious disagreements on regional and international issues. On the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the two countries are poles apart.
The report follows concerns of Iranian Ambassador to Islamabad Mehdi Honardoost about former army chief Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the Saudi-led military alliance.
Speaking to journalists in Islamabad recently, Ambassador Honardoost said Tehran had conveyed its concerns on General Sharif’s appointment as head of the military alliance. “This could impact the unity of the Muslims. We are naturally concerned about this issue,” he had said.
The envoy said Pakistan did contact Iranian officials before issuing the NOC to General Sharif but this “did not indicate that Iran was satisfied with this decision or it had accepted the same.”
The Pakistani government has already issued a No-Objection Certificate to the retired General last week and he left for Riyadh soon afterwards.
Reportedly, members of Islamic Military Alliance have swelled to 41 but pivotal Muslim countries including Iran and Iraq are still not a part of it.
On the other hand, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua clarified that Pakistan had no rift with Iran adding the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance was not against any country but terrorism.
“Pakistan has the same policy. We have no border issues with Iran and our border with Iran is friendly,” she said.
The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh. Pakistan had also delayed approval to Raheel Sharif – considering Iran’s objections — for several months before finally giving green light to the former army chief.
The terms of reference of the alliance are still not clear, however, reportedly Pakistan would be sending a brigade of nearly 5000 troops to be a part of the alliance.