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Iran-Pakistan relations

Iran-Pakistan relations

The Iran-Pakistan nexus

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

News of the kidnapping of Iranian guards at the Iran-Pakistan border and Iran's accusation of US complicity with Sunni extremists operating from within Pakistan have ignited renewed interest in the ups and downs of relations between Iran and Pakistan.

Historically, different factors have affected Iranian-Pakistani political relations since the creation of Pakistan. As neighbors and Muslim countries, the two have always had close relations.

Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan soon after its independence in August 1947.

During the first decade of independence, successive Pakistani governments attached high priority to establishing bilateral relations with Iran. In the early 1970s, Pakistan's success in ending a powerful separatist insurgency in the province of Balochistan, bordering Iran, would not have been possible without the support of the Iranian military. This, in fact, set the precedence for Pakistan's involvement in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

During the 1990s, relations between the two countries declined as a result of two concurrent developments: the rise of anti-Shi'ite terrorist activities in Pakistan and the assassination of Iran's counsel general, Sadeq Ganji, in Lahore in 1990, and subsequently the coming to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban captured the Afghan city of Maza-e-Sharif, they not only massacred thousand of Hazara Shi'ites, they also murdered scores of Iranian diplomats, straining Iran's bilateral ties with Pakistan, which at the time backed the Taliban.

When General Pervez Musharraf came to power in 1999, he visited Tehran and promised to address the terrorist activities in Pakistan; subsequently relations between the two countries improved. After the execution of Ganji's assassin by the Pakistani government in February 2001, Iran gained a new level of confidence in Pakistan's determination to curb anti-Shi'ite extremism in that country.

Still, as long as the Taliban remained in power in Kabul, supported by Pakistan, and Iran was committed to backing the anti-Taliban forces, relations between Iran and Pakistan were held hostage to some extent by the developments inside Afghanistan. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent fall of the Taliban paved the way for the mending of bilateral relations.

Immediately after the Taliban's demise, Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, paid a two-day visit to Islamabad and reached an understanding with his Pakistani hosts on the situation in Afghanistan. Both sides agreed to assist in the establishment of a broad-based multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan under the United Nations' auspices.

Another important turning point in Iran-Pakistan relations transpired with president Mohammad Khatami's visit to Pakistan in December 2002, the first by an Iranian president in 10 years. During the visit, both sides discussed how to improve bilateral relations and regional security, focusing especially on Pakistani-Indian relations, in the light of Iran's declared willingness to mediate between them. As a result of Khatami's visit, Iran and Pakistan signed four agreements and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at enhancing their bilateral relationship, mainly in the fields of trade, plant quarantine, science and technology.

Pakistan's prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, paid a return visit to Iran in October 2003, and reached a landmark preferential trade agreement. Another agreement was on the revitalization of a trilateral commission among Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan aimed at pushing for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Jamali visited Iran again in February 2004 to attend the Developing Eight (D-8) meeting.

In March 2004, Iran's first vice president, Reza Aref, visited Pakistan. His talks centered on further strengthening the existing cooperation between the two countries. The following agreements were signed during Aref's visit: a preferential trade agreement; an MoU between the export promotion bureaus of the two countries; an MoU to establish a joint investment company; an instrument of ratification of the agreement for avoidance of double taxation; and a customs cooperation agreement.

Economic relations

The most important issue in Iranian-Pakistani economic relations is the low level of economic exchange; both countries need to encourage and increase relations in this sphere. Trade between Pakistan and Iran during 2005 was barely more than half a billion US dollars. Still, this must be considered an improvement over the previous years: trade between the two countries declined in 2001-02 from $394 million to $166 million. Pakistan lost Iranian markets for transport equipment and leather because of reports of delays in shipments of the poor quality of products.

A report prepared by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry stated that the erection of unnecessary trade barriers caused a reduction in Pakistan's exports to Iran in 2002. Iran canceled an order for Pakistani wheat because of its poor quality. The main reason for the trade deficit between the two countries lay in the differential between Pakistan's exports to Iran and its importation of crude petroleum and furnace oil from Iran at a cost of $141 million (in 2002). In late 2002, Pakistan began to import Iranian electricity for Balochistan province.

On a more positive note, the recent economic reforms in Iran have improved the climate for foreign investment, including by Pakistani companies. Also, Iran has been encouraging the private sector to do business with the neighboring countries. In this regard, the Mutual Economic Cooperation Commission has prepared the ground for economic ties between Iran and Pakistan. The 13th session of this commission, held in December 2002 in Islamabad, completed its work with a note of success, pushing for the enhancement of opportunities for the private sectors of both countries to increase their exchanges.

During 2003-04, the volume of bilateral trade was about $376 million. Trade and economic cooperation was discussed in detail at the 14th session of the Joint Economic Commission held in Islamabad in March 2004. The whole range of economic activity between the two countries was reviewed and ways and means to enhance cooperation were discussed.

The second issue that affects Iranian-Pakistani economic relations is the problem of petroleum smuggling between the two countries. The problem has increased in recent years, fueled by the differential in oil prices across the common border. While several rounds of negotiations have taken place between Iranian and Pakistani officials, they have yet to yield results.

Without doubt, boosting security is important for encouraging commercial relations and preventing cross-border smuggling, notwithstanding the alarming news of kidnapping of more than a dozen Iranian guards at the Iran-Pakistan border this month.

In spite of the above-mentioned problems, there are hopeful signs that the economic and other ties between Iran and Pakistan will improve, particularly if the much-talked-about "peace pipeline" between Iran and India transiting through Pakistan turns into reality; the estimated profit for Pakistan is one-half billion dollars annually. This aside, the two countries are now laying the emphasis on the establishment of a fiber-link network and improved communications and transport links, including the railway systems.

Impact of regional issues

While Iran and Pakistan are neighbors, their regional outlooks are somewhat different as a result of the different type and nature of national security challenges and threats facing each country.

India: Relations with India are an important issue that affects Iranian-Pakistani relations. Pakistan is concerned about the North-South Corridor that Iran and India seek to establish together with Russia. In the light of Iran's good relations with India, Pakistan is concerned about the impact of those relations on its disputes with India - over the core issue of Kashmir as well as other regional and geopolitical issues. Iran has declared its willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. In his visit to Pakistan, Khatami stated: "We will do everything possible to remove tensions between India and Pakistan." In 2004, when tensions between India and Pakistan escalated, Iran was the first country to contact Musharraf and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with a view to defusing the crisis.

The proposed Iran-India gas pipeline via Pakistan remains problematic. On the one hand, this could act as an ideal platform for initiating regional economic interdependence. Iran is the fifth-richest country in mineral reserves, possessing some 10% of world's oil reserves and 14.9% of the world's natural-gas reserves, simultaneously serving as the connection link among a diverse set of regions, the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the South Asian subcontinent. In both India and Pakistan, energy demands exceed supplies, while Iran is in an ideal position to play the role of supplier.

While in principle there is no problem between Iran and Pakistan over the proposed gas pipeline, India's lingering security concerns, eg concern that Pakistan would use it as security leverage in the future, hamper the realization of this important project.

Afghanistan: Pakistan and Iran have shared the fallout of decades of upheaval in Afghanistan, partly in the form of millions of Afghan refugees, many of whom have not returned to Afghanistan since the Taliban's downfall in 2001. Since then, Iran and Pakistan have tried to improve relations strained for a decade by policy differences over Afghanistan, both sides coming to a recognition of the fact that sustained peace and stability are in their interests and not only those of the people of Afghanistan.

As a result, both Tehran and Islamabad gave support to the political process initiated in Afghanistan by the Bonn Agreement (among the Afghan political factions) while extending a helping hand to President Hamid Karzai's government in its efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. A first step was the signing of the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighborly Relations by Iran and Pakistan on December 22, 2002.

A serious problem affecting Iran and Pakistan from Afghanistan is the burgeoning drug traffic, which has served as the main financial source for extremist groups, including the remnants of the Taliban. The illicit drug-smuggling networks also serve as a conduit for the transfer of small arms and explosives and for human trafficking. Drug traffickers have been using Iran's territory as the shortest major land route for the transit of narcotics from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe.

Iran spends $400 million annually in its effort to control the drug traffic, and Iran and Pakistan need to bolster their security cooperation in their fight against this menace. Both countries could cooperate in attracting international aid on this project as its has much greater repercussions than purely regional ones. On the contrary, the matter affects many countries around the globe, requiring a globalized strategy led by the regional states.

Security cooperation: Over the past few years, Iran and Pakistan have taken several concrete steps to increase their security cooperation, including:
The Pakistani-Iranian Joint Ministerial Commission on security was established in November 2001 to deal with the problems of terrorism, smuggling, sectarian violence, extremism and narcotics. The initial meeting of this commission was held in September 2002.

There has been a renewal in consultations between the foreign ministers of both countries on bilateral relations and on regional and international developments. The first of such consultations was held in July 2001.
Regular interactions between Pakistani and Iranian intelligence officials have been ongoing since October 2001. These interactions are held between senior-level Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Iranian intelligence officials and focus on the future of Afghanistan, Iran's role in seven cultural centers in Pakistan, cross-border broadcasts, etc.
Both countries have agreed to solve security and border issues in a special security committee.

Presence of foreign powers: Iran and Pakistan have somewhat divergent perspectives with respect to the presence of foreign powers in the region. Iran is concerned about the post-September 11 military cooperation between the US and Pakistan. However, both countries share long-term perspectives on how to deal with the intrusiveness of foreign powers in the region. Both Iran and Pakistan, for instance, opposed the United States' unilateral action in Iraq, calling for a central role for the UN.

However, although Iran and Pakistan have reached a basic geostrategic understanding regarding both Afghanistan and Iraq, their relations may be harmed as a result of the hostility between Iran and the US and Pakistan's close relations with both the US and Israel; repeatedly during 2005, Pakistani officials stated their steadfast opposition to any US military strike against Iran via Pakistani territory and/or airspace.

Nuclear cooperation: During the past couple of years, the revelations concerning the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran by the Pakistani network led by Abdul Qadeer Khan have ignited heated debates and discussions about the nature of nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Iran is concerned about the reports of Pakistan's nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Iranian concern is fueled by, among other things, unconfirmed reports of a secret Saudi-Pakistani agreement, harking back to a high-level visit to Pakistan by a Saudi prince in 2003 after a Saudi defense official's visit to Pakistan's nuclear facilities, prompting serious speculations in Tehran that the Pakistani nuclear network headed by Khan might have traded far more sensitive nuclear technology and know-how to the Saudis than it did to Iran. After all, Khan has visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions, albeit for the benign purpose of attending conferences, and the Sunni connections between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia run pretty deep.

Saudi officials have denied rumors of an oil-for-nukes pact between Riyadh and Islamabad, but Iranian policymakers are put on guard by such rumors, deemed credible in the light of Pakistan's history, its close ties to Saudi Arabia, and its cash dependency on the oil-rich Saudis. Without doubt, a potential motivating factor, other than Israel, for a Saudi nuclear-weapons program is the alleged existence of such a program in Iran, which in turn may have been influenced by the threats of Saudi nuclearization.

Iran is pleased by the recent statements by Musharraf that Pakistan's nuclear assets are under strict custodial controls and that any clandestine proliferation network has been dismantled.

In conclusion, Iran's and Pakistan's concerns and interests are interlinked in the new regional and international climate. New problems as well as new opportunities have been created for both countries, affecting their bilateral and multilateral relations, since the events of September 11, 2001. Both countries need to devote more energy to boost their economic trade, enhance their security cooperation, and to identify practical ways to tackle the problems facing the region.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume X11, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us for information on sales, syndication and republishing.)

US turns against Musharraf (Jan 12, '06)
Pakistan and Israel deal Iran a blow (Sep 3, '05)
A troubled triangle: Iran, India and Pakistan (Apr 22, '05)
'Brothers' in arms (Mar 18, '05)
Islamabad makes a tradeoff (Mar 18, '05)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/HA13Df03.html
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Key Points

  • Pakistan and Iran have worked together on bringing stability to Afghanistan, although they do not see eye-to-eye on a future role for the Taliban.
  • India’s financial involvement in the development of the Iranian port of Chabahar and the roads that link it to Afghanistan could potentially deepen Tehran’s relationship with Islamabad and Beijing.
  • The 2015 “Iran Deal” has opened the door to some promising economic projects between Iran and Pakistan which will be of benefit to the two countries and the region.

Summary

Pakistan-Iran relations have been complicated since Partition, and even more so since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The two countries have worked together on trying to bring stability to Afghanistan, although they do not see eye-to-eye on a future role for the Taliban. There is much potential in their relationship, especially with regard to the export of energy. Cross-border security issues in Balochistan and the frequent massacre of Shiites in Pakistan continue to be irritants in the relationship. China’s relationship with both will have a critical role in bringing the two closer together but, while bilateral relations will continue to expand, they will never be as close as Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia.

Analysis

It has been well over a year since the “Iran Deal” – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – between Iran and the P5 + 1 (US, China, Russia, France, UK and Germany, was signed in July 2015 and just over a year since the breaking of bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia following the execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric on terrorism charges. Given the significance of these two events and their potential impact on Pakistan, it is an opportune time to examine the bilateral relationship between Islamabad and Tehran and to discuss where it may be heading.

Pakistan will progressively deepen its relationship with Iran while at the same time maintaining a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia, with which it has had long and deep ties, but which is also Iran’s principal strategic rival in the region. Moreover, Pakistan’s approach to Iran will also be informed by its relationship with China, its interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and its ongoing enmity with India. The leaders of Pakistan will also be mindful of the country’s domestic factors, notably sectarian differences and the continuing unrest in Balochistan, when proceeding with the deepening of their relationship with Tehran. All in all, the handling of the bilateral relationship will require agility, careful diplomacy and patience. If properly handled, however, a deepening of Pakistan-Iran relations would be in both countries’ (and the region’s), long-term interests, without necessarily threatening Pakistan-Saudi ties.

This paper will be divided into two parts, each examining key drivers of the bilateral relationship. Part One will cover Afghanistan, India and China. Part Two will examine Saudi Arabia and Balochistan. Each of these drivers will have a different impact on how the bilateral relationship will ultimately develop.

The Afghanistan Angle

Although there was no co-ordination on how they should respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, Iran and Pakistan nevertheless saw eye-to-eye on this issue – at least in the early days.  A few weeks after the invasion, the Iranian foreign minister stated in unequivocal terms that ‘we are the most concerned nation about the situation in Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate this Soviet invasion.’[1] Both countries now had Soviet troops on their respective borders. By the mid-1980s, however, Iran had become less engaged in the Afghan conflict and this bred Iranian suspicion about Pakistan’s end game in Afghanistan.

There were two reasons for that. First, Iran was focussed on the costly war with Iraq and therefore had less time and resources to spend on the Afghan conflict. Second, the bulk of the mujahideen (freedom fighters), were Sunni, with their tribal bases in the south, east and north of Afghanistan. There were seven groupings of moderate Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists based in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani army intelligence kept a tight control over the distribution of the funding that was coming principally from Saudi Arabia.[2] Four smaller Shi’a groups were based in Iran, but they did not have access to as substantial amount of funds and weapons. Moreover, these latter groups were less united and the divisions among them were often deep.[3]

Pakistan’s role as a “frontline state”, host to three million Afghan refugees and provider of safe havens for the mujahideen, was crucial to Washington’s plan to have Pakistan and Saudi Arabia together become the south-west pillar of its strategic scheme to block any Soviet move towards the Indian Ocean.[4] It was this American policy, the “Carter Doctrine”, which kick-started the deep relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, one which later would have far-reaching negative consequences for Pakistan’s polity. But it was a relationship which dovetailed nicely with General Zia’s Islamisation programme at home. The ever tightening Pakistani-Saudi relationship would have an impact on Pakistan-Iran relations further down the road.[5]

Although the Americans distrusted the Iranians and their motives in the region, they welcomed Pakistan’s relationship with Teheran because it helped to keep the Iranians engaged on the Afghan issue. Moreover, and despite the animosity between Iran and the US, Washington did not want to see a weakening or even the break-up of Iran because this would facilitate Moscow’s perceived drive to reach the shores of the Indian Ocean and establish a warm-water port, a key concern of Washington in those days[6] and a narrative in which Pakistan had a crucial role to play.

In the early days of Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan, two issues were of greatest interest to Tehran then and, importantly, remain so today. First, Iran wanted to maintain, if not increase, its influence in western Afghanistan. This it did by supporting the mujahideen based in Iran and the local warlords over the Afghan border, such as Mohammad Ismail Khan in Herat. The second issue was promoting the interests of the Shiite community, particularly the Hazaras. Unfortunately, these two Iranian interests clashed with those of Pakistan. Following the departure of the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989 and the end of the subsequent, bloody civil war which lasted until 1996, the Taliban – a Pakistani and Saudi-backed Pashtun militant group – eventually took over the country, having effectively defeated the other mujahideen groups. The defeated groups, which were in an ever- changing loose coalition of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras called the “Northern Alliance”, were supported by India and Iran.[7] Those constituent elements of the former alliance are, on the whole, still supported by India and Iran today.

During their rule, the Taliban imposed their harsh and retrograde Salafist version of Islam, which included repressing the Shiite community. Even today, after having been ousted from power in October 2001 by a coalition of Western forces, the Taliban continue to adhere to those same archaic religious values. The Taliban has been conducting an increasingly successful insurgency against the Western forces, significantly reduced since 2015, and the Afghan security forces. Were they to return to power – alone or as part of a coalition, they would most likely try to again impose their version of Islam. That would be an outcome that Iran would not welcome.

In addition to the points discussed above, Iran has a deep interest in the economic potential of Afghanistan, both as a market for its energy and as a transit route for the sale of energy to Central Asia and China.[8] Iran signed an agreement with Afghanistan in 2011 for the export of energy to that country. In 2012, Afghanistan was Iran’s fourth-largest trading partner, having exported some US$2 billion worth of energy to Kabul.[9] Given Iran’s political and economic investment in Afghanistan and its legitimate strategic and defence interests about the future of Afghanistan, Iran must eventually be brought into the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan), which is the framework set up to move forward the stalled Afghan peace and reconciliation process.  This is critical because, unless it is part of the peace process, Iran will have no stake in the outcome, and, therefore, no interest in ensuring that it is successfully implemented.

The Indian Reach

Iran’s desire to deepen its economic involvement in Afghanistan will have been given a major impetus with its signing in May 2016 of twelve agreements with India, including one which involves the development of the port of Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman. The Chabahar deal commits India to invest immediately US$500 million in the Iranian free trade zone. Prime Minister Modi also vowed to spend an additional US$2 billion to equip Chabahar with roads and railways that would head north to the Afghan border. While this Indian financial commitment is commendable given that the building of the infrastructure would benefit both countries, if not the whole region, it is also a known fact that India is not awash with funds. In recent years, it has had to seek major funding from China and Japan to develop its own decrepit infrastructure. So, whether this becomes a reality is a moot point. Still, the Indians have an additional impetus to proceed with this large project given that Afghanistan and India signed a Strategic Agreement in 2011 which brings the two countries closer together and provides some sense of long-term certainty with the provision of training, equipping, and capacity-building programmes.

But Iran is not putting all its eggs in the Indian basket. On the contrary, it is keen to get more players involved financially in the development of the Chabahar port, notably Pakistan and China.[10] Wider external involvement in this project is now easier with the lifting of the sanctions against Iran following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015. Also, Iran would not want to jeopardise its long-term relationship with Pakistan and China over a project that India may not be able to deliver on. It is important to remember that India has been sitting on the project since 2003 and nothing has happened in 13 years. But, regardless of which countries ultimately get involved, the aim of the Iranian leaders’ is to turn Chabahar into an economic hub which could benefit the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia.

The China Connection

Although China is presently involved in developing the port of Gwadar in Pakistan, some 70 kilometres along the Indian Ocean coast from Chabahar, as part of its massive US$46 billion investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Beijing may also be interested in participating in the Chabahar project.[11] For geostrategic reasons, China’s involvement in that project would prevent India from having a monopoly in the development of Chabahar and getting a toehold in south-west Asia. Moreover, given how China’s economy compares so much more favourably than India’s in size, Beijing could easily outspend New Delhi on this project and actually deliver on its contractual commitments, something that India cannot guarantee. For practical reasons and, given the proximity of the two ports, Chabahar and Gwadar could complement each other and eventually be a critical hub of economic activity for the region.

If nothing else, Chinese and Pakistani involvement would outflank India and prevent it from breaking out of the South Asia strategic space. So, all in all, one should not be surprised if, indeed, China did get involved in the Chabahar project, as it would be another building block in Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” project that links China with South and Central Asia and beyond. Participating in the project would also fit China’s overall policy of developing its bilateral relationship with Iran. It is generally not known, but China was a key player in the JCPOA negotiations, convincing the Iranians to make concessions on their nuclear programme. Theirs is a bilateral relationship which has a lot of potential for growth in many fields, especially in defence and trade and such developments would be good news for Pakistan.

Another important reason why China could get involved in the Chabahar project is its financial involvement in the construction of the 1,800 kilometre-long Pakistani gas pipeline to join up with Iran’s already-completed end of the pipeline. The US$7 billion project, which was first conceived in the 1990s, was meant to connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to India via Pakistan, but India pulled out of the project in 2009, citing security and cost reasons.[12] The project has been dormant for years for a number of reasons, including due to the financial sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear programme.

 Economic Links

According to the Pakistani Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will be completed by 2018. Upon completion, it will bring much-needed relief to energy-starved Pakistan. Moreover, it has been suggested that once this pipeline – coined the “peace pipeline” – is fully operational, it could bring up to US$500 million to Islamabad’s coffers.[13]  Needless to say, that would be a major boost to the present low level of bilateral trade which is estimated to be only about US$1 billion a year, down from US$1.32 in 2008-09. It is worth contrasting these low figures with the US$4 billion in bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and the US$4 billion in remittances that Pakistani workers send back to Pakistan annually. On an official visit to Pakistan in March 2016, Iranian President Rouhani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed an agreement to increase annual bilateral trade volumes to US$5 billion by 2021. Even with the US, UN and EU sanctions against Iran lifted, it is difficult to imagine that the two countries will achieve this highly ambitious target within five years given the low level of bilateral trade today.  The agreement complements the previous 2004 Preferential Trade Agreement with the aim of signing a free trade agreement between the two countries in the near future. Deepening defence relations would be another objective that both countries would like to achieve in the post-JCPOA period.

Conclusion

As Afghanistan became the battle ground for regional and external players, including China and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia significantly deepened. That, of course, would have an impact on Pakistan-Iran relations. Afghanistan provides an additional source of friction in that Iran is keen to maintain its influence in the west of the country and would not welcome the return to power in Kabul of the Pakistan-friendly, anti-Shiite Taliban.

Given China’s increasing importance in the region, including in the implementation of the One Belt, One Road programme, the relative importance of the US will diminish accordingly. That, too, will help bring the two countries closer together. Even so, the target of boosting the value of bilateral trade to US$5 billion within five years appears overly ambitious.

Even though Iran may be geographically close to Pakistan, Islamabad’s relations with Saudi Arabia are much tighter and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The Saudi-Pakistan relationship, together with the implications of the situation in Balochistan province, will be examined in Part Two of this paper.

 *****

[1] Vatanka, A., Iran and Pakistan – Security, Diplomacy and American Influence, New York: I. B. Tauris & Co. (2007), p. 168.

[2] Along with China, Saudi Arabia contributed some US$250 million in military aid to the Afghan fighters. The Economist, 11 May 1985.

[3] Vatanka, pp. 185-90.

[4]Far Eastern Economic Review, 11 December 1984, p. 18.

[5] By the mid-1980s, the number of Pakistani military personnel reportedly stationed in Saudi Arabia was around 40,000 (Vatanka, p. 179).

[6] ‘US Policy toward Iran’, White House Memorandum, MSC/ICS 402010, 11 February 1980, cited in Vatanka, p. 169.

[7] Alam, S., Iran-Pakistan Relations, Strategic Analysis, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses,     Vol. 28, № 4, (2004), p. 537.

[8] Barzegar, K., ‘Iran’s Foreign Policy in Post-Taliban Afghanistan’, Washington Quarterly, Vol. 37, № 2, (2014), pp. 120-22.

[9] Barzegar, p. 121.

[10] As a matter of fact, according to Iranian officials, Pakistan was first approached for the development of Chabahar.

[11] For a good discussion comparing Gwadar to Chabahar, see: M. Daim Fazil, ‘5 Reasons Gwadar Port Trumps Chabahar’, The Diplomat, 9 June 2016. http://thediplomat.com/2016/06/5-reasons-gwadar-port-trumps-chabahar/.

[12] Munir, M., Ahsan, A. and Zulfqar, S., ‘Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline: Cost-Benefit Analysis’, Journal of Political Studies, Vol. 20, № 2, (2013), pp. 161-78.

[13] Pant, H.V., ‘Pakistan and Iran’s Dysfunctional Relationship’, Middle East Quarterly, Vol. 16, № 2, (2009), p. 49.

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