FRAMEWORK FOR REGIONAL PROSPERITY

Situationer

M Ziauddin

Monday, April 06, 2015 – IRAN seemed to have welcomed the accord whole heartedly. The kind of public reception the chief negotiator of Iran, foreign minister, Muhammad Javed Zarif was given in the streets of Tehran on his triumphant return from Switzerland reflects the measure of relief the people of this economically and financially besieged country must have felt over this historic development.

On the other hand, one did not see any wide-spread public reaction to the accord in any of the six countries—US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia— that signed the Framework accord on April 2, 2015, except the usual media discussion, most of which, however,was positive. Of course, multinationals in most of the Western countries led by those based in Germany seemed overly happy with the outcome of the eight-day long intensive talks in Lausanne.

German companies are hoping to win billions of euro worth of business after the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran to force it to abandon what was viewed in the West and the US its weapon-oriented nuclear programme. German businesses see the agreement as an encouraging sign hoping business with Iran to pick up by mid-year and exports doubling in the next five years.

However, political opposition to the accord in the US is palpable with the Republicans which control both the Congress and Senate publicly disagreeing with the accord and threatening to block it with their votes from becoming effective.

The two Middle Eastern countries, Israel and Saudi Arabia feel as if the accord has given Iran permission to make the bomb.

War having been removed from the table as one of the options because of ignominious lessons learnt from those waged in Afghanistan and Iraq in the immediate past and in Syria currently— and with sanctions seemingly only reinforcing Iraniandetermination to make the bomb the world powers were left with no option but to take the talks route and take it to its logical conclusion in the spirit of give-and-take.

The Iranians, on the other hand, having clearly reached the conclusion after fighting bravely for over 13 years the universal socio-economic isolation forced by the continuously tightening sanctions’ noose that a bomb was no deterrent against the hardships of poverty preferred to abandon the weapons’ route in return for being accepted back into the comity of nations.

Once the fine-print of the accord is agreed upon by June 30 and all political opposition in the US and from its Middle Eastern friends neutralized the world, particularly the region is expected to see an all-round economic resurgence with Iran actively joining the Asian Century now being led by China and India.

The countries most likely to receive a quick economic fillip following the lifting of the Iranian sanctions would be those located in Central Asia which already have close links with Iran because of the developed physical infrastructure that exists between them. Indeed, Iran was on the verge of playing a dominant role in the economic uplift of the Central Asia when it was caught in the web of an international conspiracy hatched by Israel and rival Arab Middle East in cahoots with the powerful Israeli lobby in the US.

The running feud between Tehran and Washington since the Iranian revolution had made it very difficult for Islamabad to build a mistrust- free relationship with Iran because of our very close affiliation with its arch enemy—the US. And our Saudi Arabian connections had made the equation even more complex.

The emergence of the Taliban government in Kabul with the material help from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and ideological blessing from the US (Washington was very happy to see a Sunni fundamentalist government in the immediateneighbourhood of Ayatullahs’ Iran threatening to export its Islamic revolution) had provoked Iran to join the Northern Alliance contesting Taliban hegemony in Afghanistan. This armed contest between the two Afghan factions, one overwhelmingly Pushtun and the other a mixture of Tajiks and Uzbeks had brought Iran and Pakistan face to face in confrontation as Pakistan was assisting the former and Iran the latter.

Since the ouster of Taliban from Kabul in 2002, the main political irritant spoiling Iran-Pakistan relations seems to have been removed. Now Kabul has a government shared by both the Pushtuns and Tajiks. And one hopes, with the improvement in relations between Iran and the US following the nuclear deal between the two, things would cool off on our borders with Iran along Balochistan which it is believed Washington and Israel have since been using to send in infiltrators into Iran to create problems for that country. Iran had retaliated by keeping this border hot in order to stop unwanted infiltrations.

With both China and Iran seemingly interested in helping Afghanistan back on its feet, Pakistan is likely to feel much more reassured in the regional context and would perhaps have little or no objection to India also joining in exploiting the trade and economic potential that is likely to open up with peace returning to Afghanistan.

The gas pipeline project that Iran and Pakistan had signed some three years back is also likely to come alive as soon as the sanctions are lifted from Iran. This will considerably ease Pakistan’s energy crisis. And the fact that Iran has chosen Pakistan as the first country to send its foreign minister Zarif after its nuclear deal with world powers indicates the importance that Tehran attaches to its relations with Islamabad.

With the construction of economic corridor cutting across Pakistan from Gawader to Sinkiang in China and at the same time the revival of the silk route would perhaps make it politically less risky for Pakistan to allow India transit trade routes toCentral Asia bringing the entire region that would include India, Chin, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia and the Middle East into one single contiguous economic and trade market place heralding prosperity and progress for the billions of poverty stricken inhabitants living in the region.

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