Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan from 25-26 March is a welcoming step for the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran. Certainly, the credit of this interaction resides by the leadership of two countries who are determined to provide these relations a positive boost. This visit will help to revivify and transmuting the stalled relations, in return giving both countries a second chance of cooperation.
Starting from a warm reception, Dr. Rouhani did reiterate his support for cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields, improved border security, joining hands in overcoming terrorism, making an effort to coordinate their Afghanistan policies with reference to peace process, and to strengthen Pakistan-Iran friendship altogether.
This visit took place approximately three years after Rouhani took over the office as President of Iran in 2013 while; Prime Minister Nawaz made his venture to Iran twice in his tenure up till now. During Rouhani’s visit, he met with the civil-military leadership of country, discussing wide array of issues of bilateral and strategic importance. Out of all, his meeting with Pakistan-Iran Business forum and joint news conference with the Prime Minister remained the highlights.
This visit of Iranian President to Pakistan could rejuvenate the mired relations between Pakistan and Iran. This visit could be the starting point of that slow and gradual process, which is needed to mend their severely damaged relations during the 1990s, which was mainly due to clash in policies towards Afghanistan landscape. It is the matter of time that both countries must understand each other’s importance. Pakistan and Iran are both intertwined and interdependent, sharing common grounds with similar strategic prospects and challenges. There are amazing opportunities existing between Pakistan and Iran, need is to exploit them for common good.
Both countries are not only sharing a 1200 km long border but the similar ideological and religious beliefs. Similarly, these common grounds pave numerous reasons for cooperation. Being a neighbor and Muslim Brother Country, Pakistan would always like Iran as a cooperative neighbor, contributing positively to the region. Recent uplifting of sanctions from UN Security Council has paved way for positive development of economically viable ties between Pakistan and Iran.
Rouhani on his visit was accompanied by a 60 member delegation of Iranian businessmen, which shows eagerness of Iran into picking up the advantages of these prospective mutual economic ties. Besides, his key presence at Pak-Iran Business Forum, signing of MoUs for bilateral cooperation, increase in fiscal limit upto $5 Billion for annual bilateral trade makes the assumption look more promising. However, both countries could only be able to materialize goals through the promotion for bilateral trade. Pakistan and Iran have to go beyond potions, taking baby steps to ensure economically viable trade.
Iran must look forward to the removal of non-tariff barriers and Pakistan must set mechanism to purchase oil from Iran instead of going miles away. Strategic importance of Gawadar does haunt neighboring countries but Pakistan has to mainstream this right strategic narrative of cooperation for greater good of both countries. Pakistan as friendly gesture could lay modes of connectivity between Chabahar and Gawadar.
Pakistan further can carry on prospective future project of import of energy resources from Iran. Balochistan could be much prosperous and progressive if Pakistan and Iran continue to be friends than being brothers. Further Pakistan could help Iran through CPEC, linking it to China for economic interactions. Iran-Pakistan pipeline project must be completed on immediate basis as to end gas shortage in Pakistan. But these projects could only pay well tremendously upon their completion, for which their pace must be expedited.
But the viability of economic plans between Pakistan and Iran are somehow associated with security and strategic concerns. Situation in Afghanistan with its uncertain future, border issues, chaotic situation in Middle East are those areas where figments of suspicions or rumors are sabotaging this relationship. However, Rouhani’s discussion with Prime Minister Nawaz over Afghanistan peace process seems to be the start of reconciliation. This holds a great deal of importance especially when we see the past clashes over similar policy as the reason of deteriorated Pak-Iran relations. Iran shares a long border with Afghanistan along with deep cultural and historical links. And it is this relation that makes Iran as indispensible part in the success of this peace process.
Also, the recent escalations in Middle East with reference to Yemen issue, Syria Conflict and Iran-KSA rivalry, Pakistan certainly does have a role to play. Recent interaction between Pakistan and Iran must be welcomed in the Muslim world. Besides, Pakistan in recent past has neutralized serious situation intelligently. Pakistan unlike before is more on taking up balanced relations with all the stakeholders of Middle East, which is significant. Pakistan’s take over Yemen Issue and later visit to Riyadh and Tehran to diffuse Iran-KSA tensions must be appreciated for adopting rational outlook towards such issues, instead of becoming party to it.
Border issue is another nuisance between Pak-Iran relations. It was the most asked and widely questioned aspect Rouhani too came across. As per official statements, this matter was surely a part of discussion to set mechanisms to avoid any bad encounters in future. Pakistan surely believes that every Muslim country holds the responsibility to care about the sanctity of Muslim Ummah and must contribute positively. Iran as close regional neighbor must devote itself with greater good of both countries. Pakistan seems ready to extend all cooperation but Iran must also ensure its help specifically in our fight against terrorism. It would be very worthwhile if both countries could cease opportunities of getting used against each other in literal meaning.
Pakistan and Iran relations have already touched the lowest ebb in 1990s and a decade or more time is enough to learn lessons from. Leadership of both sides, by now should have seen those ridges and turfs it takes to lay foundation of any bilateral relation and its maintenance. There are massive opportunities residing, Pakistan and Iran only need to trust each other to take the risk together.
Pakistan Observer April 04, 2016.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.