Published On: Mon, Sep 24th, 2018

Pakistan-Iran ties: The Need of Hour

Muhammad Usman Ghani

Located in the Middle East, Iran is the strategic and a transactional neighbor of Pakistan. Having the deeply religious, cultural and ties, Iran shares 900 Kms border with Pakistan. Pakistan and Iran are both Islamic countries, with their common ground on many fronts, such as religion, school of thought, language, and culture. Both the countries have witnessed the bobbing course in their relationship. Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan as the sovereign state.

Pakistan has always been in the quest to foster the evenhanded relationship with Iran and favored Iran on the International ground. In February 1979, the Islamic revolution of Iran under the tutelage of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the government of Shah Iran (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), who was an Iranian monarch. In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, an Islamic Republic of Iran established, which Pakistan firstly recognized. When Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980, many western countries stood behind Saddam Hussain, yet again Pakistan remained unflinching with pro-Iran sentiments. When Iran was spooling under stringent economic sanctions levied by the US, Pakistan endorsed the demand of JCPOA (joint comprehensive plan of action) for Iran. In May 2018, when the US scrapped JCPOA, Pakistan condemned the action taken by the US.

The relationship between Iran and Pakistan stiffed when the latter backed the Taliban government in Afghanistan which Iran didn’t fancy. Likewise, the inclination of India towards Iran annoyed Pakistan; and India with the help of Iran initiated an economic project at Chah-Bahar port aimed to counter CPEC. Border security has also been irritant in Iran-Pak ties.

But both the states didn’t let these discords to last long. On May 2014, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif visited Iran, resulting in Iran-Pak ties to sail on good terms again. The recent visit of Iran’s foreign minister to Pakistan in August 2018, is likely to cool the further tensions between both countries, which existed in the past. Prior to the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Pakistan, Iran celebrated Pakistan’s Independence Day in an unprecedented move. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan hailed this Iranian move as a goodwill gesture. In his visit to Pakistan, Javad Zarif held meetings with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, COAS General Qamar Bajwa, and Prime Minister Imran Khan. Both sides agreed to work mutually for the prosperity of the region. The Prime Minister acknowledged the Iranian Supreme Leader’s support for Kashmiris struggle for self-determination.

Pak-Iran virtuous ties are the need of both states, as they have suffered many ups and downs in their economic and political course of history along with the menace of terrorism.

From Iran’s perspective, its robust ties with Pakistan are the need of the hour, since Iran is home to diverse problems. Mostly western countries tend to see Iran through the prism of the rogue state. The U.S imposed sanctions on Iran has further propelled it into the quagmire of economic recession. Iran is the only country in the world who joins the North-Korea in FATF’s blacklist.

At times the economy of Iran is stumbling with its exports stagnated. Its relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are racked up to the greatest extent. Amidst these circumstances, Pakistan is analogous to carte-blanche for Iran. Pakistan always shared friendly ties with KSA, so Pakistan is capable of brokering peace between Iran and KSA. As Pakistan in 1971 played a defining role in fostering bilateral relations between China and the United States, so Pakistan is capable of fostering good ties between the KSA and Iran. The rise of Islamic State in Iraq can pose a threat to Iran as well, Pakistan with its veteran Army clout and with its experience to combat terrorism can assist Iran in this domain. CPEC a fate changer project, endorsed by the economic giant China, which incorporates Pakistan, can turn out a boon for Iran if it plunges into CPEC. Iran and Pakistan have already agreed to enhance the bilateral trade volume to $5 billion in the coming years. Peaceful Pakistan-Iran ties can curtail the border tensions and purge the terrorism for their territorial peace and stability.

On the other hand, the energy-starved country Pakistan is in desperate need to find a partner who could relieve Pakistan’s energy needs. And Iran seems to be an ideal opportunity for Pakistan, which holds the potential to feed energy to industrial zone of Pakistan. Iran and Pakistan already share partnership on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. This project is suitable and economical for Pakistan in many aspects particularly it costs cheaper gas than the gas coming from the TAPI gas pipeline. The Iranian gas would cost to Pakistan $11 per million British thermal unit (MMBTU), whereas TAPI gas would cost $13 per MMBTU.

Iran with its border access to Turkey and the Caspian Sea can be vital for Pakistan. The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest landlocked water and is situated on the borders of Asia and Europe. Pakistan, on good terms with Iran, can have rapid access to Turkey and the Caspian Sea. Indian inclination towards Iran to counter Pak-Sino economic corridor by Chah-Bahar port is a matter of concern for Pakistan. India is investing heavily in Chah-Bahar to pawn the influence of China-invested Gwadar port. Pakistan-Iran good ties can avert this longing of India, by restricting India to focus solely on its trade and economic terms, despite soaking CPEC by exploiting Chah-Bahar.

These days, due to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran is again at crossroads of economic turmoil; thus Iran and Pakistan possibly might not take the desired advantage due to imposed US sanctions. However, both the states share intermingled historic, cultural and religious bonds and their ties are crucial for economic and regional prosperity. Along with it, the nascent government of Pakistan is also keen on fostering robust relations with neighbor countries as an inevitable element of its foreign policy.

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