Surely it’s no coincidence that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi just concluded a very successful tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Prime Minister Imran Khan received the Saudi ambassador just when the news cycle was full of chatter of a possible breakdown in relations between Pakistan and the Gulf brethren states. The bit about Pakistan having to pay back some billions owed to Saudi Arabia, for which it had to seek China’s help once again, no doubt fueled such rumours. Yet the fact that not just Islamabad but also Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have been very quick to rubbish such claims ought to be enough to show that in reality things are about as good as ever. The visa ban to UAE, too, is only temporary and because of the pandemic more than anything else. The truth is that Pakistan has always had very good relations with Gulf states, since long before they became the center of global attention because of their oil wealth and its judicious use actually, even if over time this relationship has become somewhat transactional. Now, as things stand, we supply them with an army of our labour force, which helps build their grand cities, etc, and they sign the checks that make up a very big part of our annual remittances. And Pakistan, especially, has no reason to want it any other way; at least for the time being since we continue to struggle with our foreign exchange reserves. But Pakistan is put in a particularly awkward position when it is forced to choose between our friends in the Gulf and our Iranian neighbours. It’s not secret, of course, that GCC foreign policy with regard to the Republic of Iran has been cause for a fair amount of strain in Pakistan. Lately, especially during the Trump administration when Iran was sanctioned more brutally and unfairly than at any other time in history, Pakistan was forced to maintain a safe distance with Iran, so to speak, owing to dual pressure from the Arabs as well as Washington. The new PTI government tried to break the ice by offering to mediate between the two estranged Muslim blocs that dominate the Persian Gulf, but unfortunately that drive lost steam rather quickly. Hopefully in his latest dealings with the Arabs the foreign minister as well as the prime minister would have reminded them of our need to play ball with both camps. Good relations with Gulf countries are always very welcome, but we should do more to improve our ties and trade with Iran as well.