Pakistani inclusive diplomacy urged on security and trade collaboration

Islamabad: Experts from both sides noted that diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Iran are based on the commonalities of language, literature, culture and religion which can enhance bilateral strategic and business collaboration for a win-win situation.

After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the two countries are expected to have a mutually agreed upon strategy for dealing with the emerging security and peace situation in the region. They said that strengthening cultural collaboration and heritage tourism can bring people on both sides closer together beyond the ethnic and religious divide.

Engaging young people in various sectors is imperative. The CPEC could be another economic and trade link for closer ties between Iran and Pakistan. A youth expedition from Chabahar to Gwadar would lead to a much better understanding between people on both sides and open up many prospects for collaboration. The Development Communication Network (Devcom-Pakistan), DTN and the Tehran International Studies and Research Institute (TISRI) jointly organized the webinar on “Iran-Pakistan Diplomatic Relations: Opportunities for Cooperation and convergence ”Sunday.

The panel of experts included the chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, former ISI chief and geopolitical analyst Muhammad Asad Durrani, research analyst and former ambassador to Iran Asif Durrani, former ambassador from Iran to Pakistan, Dr Mashaallah Shakeri, Cultural Advisor to Iran Ehsan Khazaei, Director of South Asian Studies at TISRI, Dr Somaye Morovati, and Executive Director of Devcom-Pakistan, Munir Ahmed, who moderated the discussion .

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that three factors will promote ties between Iran and Pakistan in the near future. First, CPEC and regional connectivity are essential for the economic future of Pakistan and Iran, with the Iran-China deal being a plus for Pakistan, securing Pakistan’s western flanks and good for the development of the port of Gwadar. Second, with instability likely in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal, counterterrorism border cooperation and border management will bring the two countries closer together, both seeking lasting peace, stability and security in Afghanistan as well as in their border. Third, with pressure from the Biden administration on Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan can act as a bridge between Tehran and Riyadh, especially on issues like Palestine and Kashmir. He said Pakistan also supports resuming the Iran nuclear deal and removing all sanctions against Iran, as Pakistan has also faced discriminatory sanctions from the West. A new positive point is a closer relationship between the military and security establishments of the two countries, with greater trust between them.

Lt General (r) Muhammad Asad Durrani said relations between Pakistan and Iran were generally good – ranging from close to fair – at their peak before the Revolution. During the Khomeini era, the United States, then our close ally in Afghanistan, wanted our relations to be degraded because of their embassy siege in Tehran, but we refused and have since represented Iranian interests in Washington. He said that after the US invasion of Afghanistan, the two countries began to grapple with irritants like Jandullah and with Russia, China and Turkey teamed up to deal with the chaos after the withdrawal of the United States. Balancing our relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran has been a challenge – especially met with finesse. The post-2003 instability in the region, especially after Mohammed Bin Salman foolishly invaded Yemen, became more complex but was still being taken care of. Some fanatics sometimes propagated bigotry, but the deep community of interest prevailed.

Ambassador (r) Mashaallah Shakeri said Pakistan and Iran have centuries-old ties in cultural, social, political, economic and trade fields. However, historical developments have resulted in an alteration of geopolitics in Persia and in the subcontinent as well. But the drastic consequences, whatever their implications for the geography or geopolitics of the region, could never change the main links between the territories and the societies concerned. Persian culture, language and literature were once the elements by virtue of which the religion of Islam was introduced to part of Southeast Asia, especially the region which is now known as Pakistan.

Ambassador (r) Asif Durrani said the strength of Pakistan-Iran relations is that they have no disputes, although they may differ in their perceptions on specific issues. Both have always cooperated bilaterally and in international forums. In 2008, Pakistan supported Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) while India voted against Iran. Pakistan fully supports Iran’s right to access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Ambassador Durrani said both countries face terrorism and separatism, sometimes of foreign inspiration. Both live in insecure neighborhoods and face varying degrees of external pressure. While since the start of its revolution, Iran has had to face the wrath of the Americans, and Pakistan has faced Indian hostility and external pressure due to the situation in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry has become a major challenge for Pakistani diplomacy. Iran appreciated Pakistan’s neutral stance towards Yemen, but this caused irritants in Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations. A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is urgently needed to reduce tensions in the Middle East.

Dr Somaye Morovati said Iran and Pakistan have a long history of cooperation with regional organizations, which would provide good experience in economic, trade and political relations between the two countries. She said Iran’s ability to link Pakistan across western borders and gain access to Europe and the Middle East can strengthen its trade ties. The Zahedan-Quetta Railway is now connected to Iran’s national rail network which is connected to Turkey and beyond.

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