Pakistani forces struck Iranian separatist militants on Thursday, retaliating for Tehran’s claim that it had struck another group’s bases inside Pakistani territory. As a result, Islamabad is on high alert.
While growing tensions between neighbours, a senior security official from Pakistan, as reported by Reuters, assertively states that any further ‘misadventure’ on the part of the Iranians will be met with a decisive response. According to Iran’s official IRNA news agency, the recent strike exchange has left a cloud over the province of Sistan-Balochistan, taking the lives of at least nine people, the majority of whom were women and children.
The United Nations and the United States call for moderation and urge Iran and Pakistan to proceed with the utmost caution as the world community keeps a close eye on the developing situation. UN Chief Antonio Guterres emphasizes the need for de-escalation in the area and urges the two governments to find diplomatic solutions.
Tensions between these heavily armed neighbours are heightened by their military exchanges, which have already been made worse by the Israel-Hamas conflict. Another layer of complexity is the timing of Pakistan’s retaliatory strikes, which came just days before the general elections that were scheduled for February 8.
A weakened caretaker government in Pakistan, thrown together for the elections, might find it difficult to handle these complicated issues, Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow and founding director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, suggests, potentially giving the military a chance to take centre stage once more.
The recent hostilities that resulted in casualties, including two children, were set in motion by Iran’s initial raids on targets in Pakistan that it considered to be “terrorist” targets. Although cross-border military actions have not occurred frequently, allegations of both countries harbouring militants on each other’s soil have been a recurrent theme.