Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani talks with Royal Saudi Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz Al -Saud, as they witness "Al-Samsaam IV", a joint military exercise conducted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in Mangla, in Pakistan's Jhelum district October 6, 2011.
Faisal Mahmood / Reuters

“Unfounded, baseless and untrue,” said Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry earlier this month, when asked whether his nation was considering the sale of nuclear arms to Saudi Arabia. Earlier this spring, Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif reiterated Pakistan’s “pledge to protect Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity” in response to a request for military assistance against the House of Saud’s Houthi foes next door. But within days, Pakistan’s parliament voted unanimously not only against sending troops to Yemen, but also against even taking sides in the conflict. Despite decades of lavish funding to Pakistan, the Saudis might wonder what they are getting for their riyals. And Pakistanis, with all the problems they face in their own neighborhood, might be amazed that anyone would expect them to plunge into the treacherous miasma of the Middle East. What to make of the warm-but-not-too-warm friendship between the wealthiest state

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  • JONAH BLANK is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. An anthropologist by training, he is author of the books Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam & Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras, and Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India
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