Pakistan's Army chief, General Raheel Sharif met with Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister on Thursday (December 31) as the two countries negotiate the role of Pakistan in the new Saudi-led Islamic coalition against religious militancy.
The meeting between General Sharif and Muhammad Bin Abdullah al-Ayesh in Rawalpindi comes as Pakistan treads a careful path. Pakistan has officially stated to be a member of the 34-country strong alliance, alongside Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and several African nations. But the list does not include Shi'ite Muslim Iran, to which rival Sunni Saudi Arabia is found engaged in proxy conflicts across Syria and Yemen.
Fully committing to the alliance would put Pakistan at odds with Iran and potentially undermine efforts to improve ties with Russia, a strong backer of Tehran.
And while strong ties remain between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan's foreign ministry says more information is needed from Riyadh before progressing further with the coalition.