By – Sheraz Zaka
There was a time when the relations between Iran and Pakistan were cordial. In 1947 Iran was the first country to recognise Pakistan as an independent country. King Raza Shah Pehlavi was the first foreign leading dignitary to pay a state visit to Pakistan. Both countries were members of SEATO.
The cultural links between both the countries were also quite strong. This eventually led to the formation of RCD (Regional Cooperation Development).In 1979 Pakistan was the first country to give recognition to the revolutionary regime of Ayatollah Khomeini after the Shah’s regime was brought to an end. But with the passage of time, relations between both countries soured.
However in 2017, both states were brought closer as a result of Donald Trump’s shenanigans. Trump thinks that by pressurising Pakistan with his do-more demands in Afghanistan, he will be able to win the fight against the Afghan Taliban. On 21 August, he delivered a speech in which he employed particularly aggressive rhetoric against Pakistan.
He did not consider that even according conservative estimates, Pakistan has lost tens of thousands of lives fighting against terrorism. At his UNGA speech on Iran, Trump called the nuclear deal with Iran “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and signalled that America may soon pull out of the deal. This is despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and European Union (EU) are in favour of concluding an agreement on nuclear energy with Iran.
Over the past few years there has been a debate in Pakistan that due to the increasing US pressure on Pakistan, it would be prudent to develop friendly ties with other countries while also keeping geopolitical realities in consideration. The country has already made a massive diplomatic shift towards Beijing and Moscow. Improving relations with Iran can also be of great strategic importance.
Similarly, once Trump took oath as president, relations between Iran and the US became tenser. Iran’s influence in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain has already been called very dangerous by the current US regime. The progress made by former President Barrack Obama in concluding an agreement with Iran on nuclear power has been greatly nullified and undermined by Trump.
This gives Pakistan and Iran an opportunity to form a strong bond and cooperate on various issues, especially energy. Iran is rich in oil and gas reserves and when the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is eventually completed, Pakistan would be enabled to produce electricity at low tariffs. This would also benefit China if the pipeline can also make its way to Xinjiang. Diplomatic hostilities from the US have already bought the two countries closer together than they have been in decades. Balochistan is also a factor here, since both the countries’ geopolitical rivals wouldn’t want peace in Balochistan. Therefore, cooperation between Pakistan and Iran is also highly important if the situation in Balochistan is to be improved.
This cooperation between both states can be two-fold: one is the implementation of border controls and the other is on keeping checks and balances on the smuggling of narcotics. In this respect both countries’ intelligence agencies should engage in information-sharing regularly in order to clamp down on such illegal activities.
It should not be forgotten that during 1990s both the countries had developed differences on the Afghan-policy issue, which affected relations between them after the government of Pakistan recognised the Taliban’s government. At present, Iran’s government is of the view that the volatile situation in Afghanistan cannot be improved unless or until the Taliban are made a part of the political process as 45 percent of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. It is a reality that without engaging the Taliban politically, the Afghanistan cannot be resolved. Both Pakistan and Iran have to play an instrumental role in this regard.
Over the past few years, it was seen that Iran and India were developing friendly ties but that ended when India voted against Iran in the IAEA as a result of US pressure. In return India got a nuclear agreement from the US. As a result, Iran learnt that India is not a reliable partner and it also knows that the present Indian government is no friend of the Muslim community. This was an eye-opener for both the Iran and Pakistan. Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between India and Israel are improving.
Recent statements from Iran’s foreign ministry in favour of Pakistan regarding Kashmir should be welcomed. With the changing geo-strategic scenario it has become vital for both states to bring their relationship closer to what they were in the 1960s as it would be beneficial for people on both sides. This could also be an instrumental factor in uniting Islamic world
The writer is a practicing lawyer and is working as a partner in Zaka and Zaka Law. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org