Dr Muhammad Khan
DURING his two-day visit of Pakistan, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani guaranteed that, “The Pakistani nation should rest assured that Iran as a strategic partner for them will always explore its potential in the field of oil and gas to satisfy the needs of the Pakistanis.” This Iranian assurance is significant in the context that, Pakistan is a energy deficient country and need fossil fuels in large quantity to make up its current and future needs. The Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline, a major energy project, started over a decade ago, could not be implemented, owing to unknown reasons. The Iranian side however has completed its part of pipeline. Both heads of governments reiterated during the visit that, efforts would be made to enhance the bilateral trade to at least $5 billion in next few years. Many agreements and MoUs were signed between Pakistan and Iran during the visit of Iranian President.
Historically, Pak-Iran relationship has enjoyed an excellent period of neighbourhood and brotherhood. It is a relationship between the people and societies, more than between the governments, thus, has intimacy, friendliness, all weather, spiritual, voluntary and indeed, free from cosmetic. Unfortunately, despite having a cherished strength, both neighbours could not exploit this relationship to their best bilateral and national interests. The reasons were very petty and narrow in scope, indeed; however, lack of foresight among the leadership was the main cause. Then, the external factors and regional security environment over-shadowed the bilateral relationship of both brotherly neighbours. In the contemporary environment, the regional and global security situation has direct bearing on the Pak-Iran strategic relationship. Iran is slowly and gradually coming out from the international sanctions, imposed on it during initial years of 21st century. Whereas, Iran has lot of opportunities for extending its future relationship both with east and west, there is an utmost need for exercising care, owing to fluid nature of security situation.
Viewing from the strategic perspective, the Pakistan-Iran relationships are more than bilateral trade and commerce. Both have enormous potentials and opportunities too for bringing a new turn in the bilateral relationship, regionally as well as globally. In the regional South Asian context, India has acted as a spoiler of the Pak-Iran bilateral relationship after both developed some differences over Afghanistan, following the Geneva Accord-1988. Whereas, Indian diplomacy gets credit for creating this fissure, discredit goes in the favour of Pakistani and Iranian diplomats and political leadership, who were overplayed by India for its strategic gains. Had there been vision and foresight among the Pak-Iran leadership, the situation could have been used in the best bilateral interests of both countries.
The stabilisation of Afghanistan through cooperation of Pakistan and Iran could have been made a strong regional bloc of three brotherly Muslim countries. This regional integration could have opened new avenues for strategic and political stability, economic prosperity and social cohesion among three countries. Instead, India made inroads into, transformed its relationship with Kabul and Tehran separately, and used the given strategic space against Pakistan. Indian collaboration with Northern Alliance in Afghanistan during the Taliban era and post Taliban Indian complete ingress in that country allowed it to use Afghan soil for promoting extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. India is still using the Afghan soil for funding, harbouring and arming the terrorist groups like TTP. Rather, RAW has total control over the NDS, the Afghan spying network and vigorously undertaking terrorist activities in Pakistan through porous Pak-Afghan border.
India greatly blighted the Pak-Iran bilateral relationship in the years, following the 1988. In the garb of its economic and strategic cooperation and friendship with Iran, the hidden Indian agenda was to use the Iranian soil against Pakistan. For quite some time, India used its Consulate in Zahedan (capital of Iranian Balochistan) for spying and supporting the sub-nationalists in Balochistan. Whereas Iran must have allowed this Indian Consulate under the diplomatic norms, India used it against Pakistan, in total disregards to the spirit of diplomacy.
The recent arrest of a serving Indian officer of the RAW from Balochitsan province. The arrested Indian Naval Commander, Kulbhushan Yadav was on deputation to RAW and was posted in Chabahar Port for years now. He has been regularly visiting various parts of Balochistan to fund and plan the terrorist activities on the directives of RAW and Indian Government. He even has the valid Iranian visa, a breach of trust, India is undertaking with Iranian Government. As per initial investigation, Commander Yadav had “contact with Baloch separatists and terrorists fuelling sectarian violence in Pakistan”; Balochistan and Karachi. Surely, neither Iranian would be. The emerging regional and global security environment warrants a close cooperation and regional integration of; Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Seeing the ground realities, this is a challenge, which needs to be converted into opportunity. The first and foremost step needed to proceed is the trust building among these states; indeed a functional cooperative mechanism to begin with. To break the impasse, the leadership of three nations must prepare a roadmap and take CMBs accordingly with tangible results. Since India has been promoting and fueling differences of Iran and Afghanistan with Pakistan, therefore, this influence has be reduced by both, through a policy of gradual disengagement.
Both should understand that, India has played an unconstructive role in the bilateral relationship of these two countries with Pakistan. Except promoting its own national and strategic interests, India has not done anything worthwhile for either of these countries. Let us harness the human capital and explore the enormous regional economic potentials for better and judicious utilization by these countries. This process would raise the stakes of all three states and the existing security concern would be addressed systemically. The process would bring stability, economic prosperity and social integration among all three countries, the need of the hour and indeed the need of the masses. There is a need that, political leadership should pave the way, rather playing in the hands of countries like India and even major powers. The visit of President Hassan Rouhani is a good step to end the mistrust, prevailed for years.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.