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Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |

Pakistan confirmed on Wednesday that it shot down an Iranian drone in Punjgur after it was found in violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

The confirmation came from the foreign office a day after media reports suggested that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) used its lethal JF 17 Thunder to shot down Iranian drone deep inside Pakistan airspace.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan had already shared the information about striking down of this drone with the Iranian authorities indicating that the drone was struck down by “our security forces as it was unmarked and there was no prior information about  its flight.”

“The drone was hit by Pakistan Air Force as it was unidentified and was flying at around 3-4km inside Pakistani territory,” read a statement issued by the foreign office.

The details of the episode are still not clear, especially the nature of the drone flight.Pakistan, however, acted against a blatant violation of its airspace, a right that it reserves.

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Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan had already shared the information about striking down of this drone with the Iranian authorities indicating that the drone was struck down by “our security forces as it was unmarked and there was no prior information about  its flight.”

At a time when both countries are going through tense times in their ties, this could have serious implications.

Pakistan is treading a fine line but has assuredly told Iran and Saudi Arabia that it would not be part of a sectarian war. To the effect, Pakistan has engaged Tehran in confidence-building talks over the past two months. Its non-participation in the Yemen war was a step in the positive direction.

Both countries traded fire last month. On April 11 Iranian guards were killed and two others injured in an ambush near the town of Mirjaveh in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan. Iran claimed that that the assailants from the Jaish Ul Adl escaped into Pakistani territory immediately after the attack.

Ties between the countries have vitiated due to the escalating situation in the Middle East. Iran has taken serious exceptions to the Saudi-led military alliance which is commanded by Pakistan’s decorated ex-chief, General Raheel Sharif.

Pakistan is treading a fine line but has assuredly told Iran and Saudi Arabia that it would not be part of a sectarian war. To the effect, Pakistan has engaged Tehran in confidence-building talks over the past two months. Its non-participation in the Yemen war was a step in the positive direction.

Read more: Yet another US drone strike in Pakistan

Pakistan has so far wisely remained neutral in the row over Qatar, which has great Iranian underpinnings attached to it.

We need US Drones:

The shooting down of Iran’s drone was met with jubilation and it was a reinforcement of the belief that Pakistan had the capability to take down these UAVs. Violation of airspace is indeed an infringement of a state’s sovereignty and states do reserve the right to stop such acts. The downing of the drone is valid under law but this raises questions marks on Pakistan’s continual indifference over drones hurled by the US.

The US has been using drones to target hideouts in the tribal areas since 2006. It is expected that the US will revive its drone campaign in Pakistan as part of its new and impending AfPak policy.

Last week a US drone allegedly took out the leader of the dreaded Haqqani Network in Hangu, which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The strike was deep inside Pakistani territory, something which in actuality flouts Pakistani sovereignty.

Questions are now being raised that despite capabilities why Pakistan does not react to the US continued airspace violations?

Read more: Can Pak-US ties be reconfigured amid hardened positions?

The US has been using drones to target hideouts in the tribal areas since 2006. It is expected that the US will revive its drone campaign in Pakistan as part of its new and impending AfPak policy.

It is important to understand that drones are precise in targeting select hideouts and places where it is difficult for security forces to operate. In other words, drones have been quite helpful operationally for Pakistani security forces in FATA.

Military forces around the world engage in wargaming. Shooting down a US drone will be good for domestic consumption but will bring about an escalation spiral which Pakistan can ill-afford. Thus plans of targeting a US drone have to be war-gamed until the end.

Many high-value targets that were challenging the writ of the Pakistani state were eliminated through drones strikes, inkling towards Pakistan’s tacit approval of the campaign.  This pretty much settles the sovereignty question.

Military forces around the world engage in wargaming. Shooting down a US drone will be good for domestic consumption but will bring about an escalation spiral which Pakistan can ill-afford. Thus plans of targeting a US drone have to be war-gamed until the end.

Read more: Is political instability rocking the Pakistani Boat?

However, the US can allay Pakistani concerns by intelligence sharing and allow Pakistan to use drones. This could be a good way to settle this tiff once and for all. The response to incoming US drones or the lack of it is a political decision taken on rational grounds, albeit it will be deemed of as cherry picking. By the end of the day, Pakistan is a US ally and Pakistan can afford to give it leverage if a particular weapon is helping it. An Indian violation, for instance, will be responded to, effectively and punitively.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub-Editor at Global Village Space (GVS). He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs of South Asia.

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