The air strikes and diplomatic debate that took place in recent days between Iran and Pakistan – before the two countries agreed to de-escalate – raised difficult questions regarding the future of China's investments and influence in the Middle East, amid fears that unrest could sweep the entire region.
The American “Oil Price” website said: Despite the de-escalation between the two countries, recent tensions highlight the fragile foundations of regional rivalries on which China's ambitions to lead the Global South depend.
It is noteworthy that the Iranian and Pakistani Foreign Ministries issued Joint statement A few days ago, they confirmed that the two countries' ambassadors would return to work today, Friday, after military and diplomatic tension following an exchange of air strikes.
The site adds that the mutual attacks revealed the thin line between peace and conflict in the region, and highlighted the challenges facing China – a close partner of both countries – and whether it can use its influence to avoid any conflict that would threaten its economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
The website quotes analysts saying that the risks remain high for China, which cannot bear the deterioration of the situation between Iran and Pakistan. He pointed out that Beijing has investments worth tens of billions of dollars in both Iran and Pakistan, and both countries are high-level partners that benefit from Chinese political and economic support.
Beijing is now expected to intensify its efforts to avoid another crisis in the region, while analysts say it is another test of China's influence after it recently reached its limits with the war in… Gazaand charging attacks in The Red Sea before Houthis, Instability increased throughout the Middle East due to these events.
Pakistan announced the withdrawal of its ambassador to Tehran against the backdrop of Iran carrying out military strikes inside its territory, and Pakistani forces responded by bombing a site inside Iran. The two attacks killed 11 people, most of them women and children, according to the authorities of both countries.
How much influence does China have?
The website quoted analysts as saying, “China's reputation is at stake as it presents itself as an alternative to the United States, although assumptions about the extent of its real power in the Middle East are currently under scrutiny.”
The Oil Price website report says that the mutual attacks came at a time when Pakistan is suffering from an economic crisis and is preparing to hold elections on the eighth of next February.
The website indicated that China has gained influence to push for a diplomatic settlement of the dispute, although experts say that Beijing may be reluctant to intervene publicly.
He pointed out that China has other winning cards if it wants to calm the situation between Iran and Pakistan, including that the latter enjoys a close partnership with Beijing, especially in the fields of economic investment and defense.
Pakistan is the largest buyer of Chinese arms, and is also home to the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a series of infrastructure projects under China's Belt and Road Initiative.
As for Tehran, China is the largest buyer of Iranian oil subject to international sanctions, and Beijing signed a 25-year economic and security agreement with Tehran in 2021.
The website says that both Pakistan and Iran are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by Beijing, which also includes India, Russia and Central Asia (except Turkmenistan).
The SCO was an important part of Beijing's effort to consolidate its influence in parts of Asia and the Middle East, as it looked to bring countries together on economic and security issues, according to Oil Price.
The website reported that China has invested in the development of the bloc and is in discussions to add more countries, but the outbreak of more conflicts among its members could hinder these moves and harm the credibility of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The website quoted experts as saying that Beijing will continue to have to confront the lack of trust between Islamabad and Tehran, and face similar problems elsewhere in the Middle East, as it walks a tightrope between increasing its international influence and limiting any diplomatic confrontation that could harm its reputation.