Ties with Iran | Editorial

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Islamabad came at a time when relations between the two countries are more troubled than usual. Iran has long been concerned about the infiltration of militants from the Pakistani side of the border, and just a day before Zarif’s trip the Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed two suicide bombers near the border. Iran also views Pakistan’s alliance with Saudi Arabia with some concern since it believes the Saudis are building a coalition of Sunni-majority countries to fight proxy wars in the Middle East against Iran. Pakistan’s primary worry is the growing Indian influence in Iran, where the Indians have been granted operational control of the Chabahar Port. In that regard at least, Zarif’s visit should assuage some of our concerns. The foreign minister has invited both Pakistan and China to invest in Chabahar and link it with Gwadar. This is a welcome offer which Pakistan should be quick to grasp. While our concerns about India will linger, the economic benefits of increased trade with Iran should not be dismissed. The port was specifically developed by India so that it could bypass Pakistan. It is now, however, a done deal and refusing to participate out of spite will only hurt us.
The Saudi Arabia issue was only addressed obliquely by Zarif when he said that Pakistan has no reason to worry about Iran’s alliance with Iran and compared it to our relationship the Saudis. This cutting remark was meant to demonstrate that Pakistan’s decision to sign up with the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, headed by former army chief Raheel Sharif, and the recent announcement that Pakistan would send troops to Saudi Arabia have not escaped the attention of Tehran. The challenge Pakistan faces now is to try and separate its long-standing alliance with Saudi Arabia from its relationship with Iran. There are many benefits to a closer partnership with a neighbour like Iran, from increased trade to cooperation on energy. Many of these issues were discussed in talks Zarif held with his counterpart Khawaja Asif and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa but whether they lead to any breakthroughs remain to be seen. There is potential for the two countries to work together on security issues, especially when it comes to the growing threat of the Islamic State – a multinational militant group that both countries are trying to eliminate. Pakistan and Iran are also trying to set up banking channels for the first time, which would be a prerequisite for the large increase in trade both countries are pursuing. Differences between Pakistan and Iran will persist for the foreseeable future but meetings such as this at least forestall the possibility of outright hostility.
Source : https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/292459-ties-with-iran

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