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Implications for Pakistan's Policy Makers

In the aftermath of Iran’s nuclear deal with P5+1, this write up is purely from Pakistan and this region’s perspective. Pakistan and Iran are close neighbors, sharing 909 km border on the western side. Both are bound together in culture, religion, ethnicity and traditions since times immemorial. Iran was the first country to accord international recognition to Pakistan when it was established in 1947. Both the countries have supported each-other financially, economically, politically and militarily in the past. Pakistan-Iran defense agreement was signed in July 1989. Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline talks began in 1994. In 2008, Iran agreed to finance an energy project in Pakistan worth $ 60 Million with 1000 MW electricity. An agreement on International Freight Rail worth $ 20 Billion from Islamabad to Istanbul via Tehran was signed in 2009. Pakistan’s exports to Iran include Rice, Meat, Textiles and Surgical equipment on the other hand Iran’s exports to Pakistan include Petroleum products, Electricity, Chemicals, Plastics, Iron and Steel. GDP of Iran in 2012 was $538.9 Billion and of Pakistan in the same year was $231.9 Billion. In spite of all the good relations, an air of distrust cum animosity had prevailed in the past few decades. The main reasons for the mistrust between both neighbors were:

- Sectarianism

- Divergence of policies toward Afghanistan

- US influence on Pakistan

- Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia

- Iran’s relations with India

Fruits of Iran’s nuclear deal could only be reaped by Pakistan if the country is able to engage (diplomatically) with Iran in a very constructive and meaningful way. Iran has already proved strength of its diplomacy by achieving nuclear deal on a very technical and tricky issue by engaging extensively with all the world powers. As the deal is ratified by the US congress in about 60 days’ time, economic and military sanctions imposed on Iran by US and EU will start to lift and in the immediate future Iran will have hands on approximately more than $100 Billion available to it for development and expansion of its badly shrunk economy. But make no mistake, that part of the same money will also be available to fuel its proxies in the region. So, there is a likely chance of a sharp surge in sectarian tensions and terrorism in Pakistan.

The deal brings with it an optimistic signal and bright prospects of lifting sanctions from Iran that would allow Iran to start exporting its oil and gas to the world. Similarly, many western nations are eyeing to invest in Iran having good prospects of FDI. This will also enhance the possibility of Iran- Pakistan (IP) or Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline dream come true that was held up due to crippling sanctions on Iran. At the same time, this will offer equally good opportunities to India to cash its presence and good old ties with Iran to destabilize Balochistan from Iranian territory. Therefore, by default, this deal has both positives as well as negatives for Pakistan embedded in it. It depends upon Pakistan, now, how carefully it hatches these new opportunities and the resulting relationship. Unless Pakistan and Iran constructively engage for the betterment of their respective countries’ and region’s peace, there are all the more chances that Iran’s good fate could prove a bad luck for Pakistan.

In this regard:

- Pakistan needs to continue Operation Zarb-e-Azb without any discrimination against all types of terrorists including sectarian.

- Engage India in talks for a positive outcome of longstanding issues/ disputes like Jammu & Kashmir.

- Engagement with Afghanistan and Murree Peace Talks sponsored by Pakistan needs to be taken to a positive and conclusive end for harvesting fruits to ensure enduring peace in the region.

Pakistan & India’s membership of SCO this month at Ufa, Russia and a possible offer to Pakistan for membership of BRICS is yet another positive indicator for this country’s increasing role in the global community. Revival of good relations with Russia coupled with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could prove really a game changer in Eurasian region, if Pakistan fields its foreign office and invest decisively all political capital through diplomacy while keeping its military doing what they are. This all portrays’ a good picture and is a source of encouragement for the development of country’s economy. If our politicians and economic managers start putting their best, realizing that world’s centers of power are shifting from west to east and Pakistan is best positioned to get maximum benefits from this transition.

By: Saeed Muhammad

Published in Jul 2015

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