Pakistan-Iran relations in perspective

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    Pakistan-Iran relations in perspective

    Apart from being a neighbour, Iran is the only country with which Pakistan has “had age-old relations, based on cultural, ethnic, and spiritual links”. Pakistan shares over 900 kilometres common border with Iran. Traditionally Pakistani frontiers with Iran have always been peaceful, safe, and secure.

    Both countries are bounded in a strapping relationship and Iran was the first country, which recognized Pakistan upon its emergence as an independent country in August 1947. Indeed, there have been historical linkages between the people of Pakistan (the than India) with Iranian people.

    Iranian migrants and Islamic preachers had left long lasting impression on the people and civilization of Indian Subcontinent to an extent that Persian became a widely spoken and later as an official language, until late 19th century.

    Since Iran had its security concerns from the expansionist designs of former Soviet Union and an uneasy relationship with Arab world, therefore, emergence of a none-Arab Muslim country on its neighbourhood provided her reprieve and reinforced its security.

    Whereas, Pakistan, otherwise agonized of Indian aggression and hostile Afghanistan, took Iran as its strategic partner that was amply demonstrated by Iran during 1965 and 1971, Indo-Pak wars. It also militarily assisted Pakistan in the initial days of its independence. Both became partners of Western backed defence pacts during the initial days of the cold war.

    First Pakistani Premier Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan visited Iran in 1949 and Iranian Shah reciprocated that in 1950, as the first foreign head of a state. It is worth mentioning that, Pakistani National Anthem was played first time in the honour of Shah Iran in 1950.

    In a way there established a relationship of interdependence between both brotherly Islamic countries right from the inception of Pakistan. Thereafter both countries maintained their bilateral relationship in an atmosphere of Islamic brotherhood and as good neighbours, with mutual acceptability.

    Along with Turkey, Pakistan and Iran established Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), an inter-governmental organization for socio-economic development in the member countries in 1964. The organization was renamed as Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in 1985 and its membership increased to ten in early 1990s by including Central Asian States and Afghanistan.

    In either of its form, the organization further reinforced the bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationship between Iran, Pakistan, and other regional Muslim countries. Following the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, Pakistan was the first country, which recognized Revolutionary Iranian Government.

    Pakistan sent a high-level delegation under Foreign Minister to assure Iran that, it intends further cementing its traditional relations with the later. It welcomed the Islamic Revolutionary Government in Iran. President General Ziaul Haq was among the first few heads of states, who visited Iran as a good will gesture in 1980 and again in 1981.

    During Iran-Iraq war, Pakistan made hectic efforts to negotiate a deal between two Islamic countries to end the war. Indeed, Pakistani suggestions later became the basis for ending the war in 1988. Moreover, Pakistan provided morale and diplomatic support to Iran even during the critical stages of the war that annoyed Iraq and Arab world with it.

    Pakistan also persuaded Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to normalize their relations with Iran that at times was viewed with suspicion by these countries.

    Moreover, it convinced United States not to become hostile to Iran on the issue of its hostages. US indeed wanted to launch a physical attack on Iran to end the crises of its hostages in Iran. Unfortunately, both countries developed minor divergences over the interim setup in Afghanistan upon withdrawal of Soviet Union and later on the issue of the support to Taliban by Pakistan and Northern Alliance by Iran and India.

    Considering these differences, Iran did not support Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, once the later was presenting a resolution in United Nations on Human Rights violations in Kashmir in 1996.

    It was a serious setback to Pakistani efforts and India which had already developed its relations with Iran, got an opportunity “to fish in trouble waters,” for its own strategic interests. Thereafter, Indian spying agency RAW, made inroads into Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan for causing internal destabilization, which is continuing unabated even today.

    On its part, Pakistan however, continued maintaining its brotherly relations with Iran. Pakistan always has persuaded Iran on a number of occasions for the reconciliation to shun the differences.

    Pakistan also tried to convince Iran that the enemies of both have spread these misperceptions, may be for the time being portraying as their friend. It whole-heartedly supported Iranian viewpoint on the issue of its controversial nuclear programme.

    Through a progressive reconciliation and diplomatic efforts, both countries come closer to each other in last few years. Regretfully, on October 18, 2009, a suicide attack allegedly of Jundallah militant group killed over forty people including senior commanders of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Sistan-o-Balochistan.

    The people and the Government of Pakistan strongly slammed the attack and shared the grief and sorrow of the Iranian people over the massive loss of innocent lives. Regretfully, immediately after the terrorist attack, a number of Iranian leaders and high-level officials including supreme leader pointed fingers at Pakistan.

    Pakistan Government however strongly negated its involvement in the attack and assured Iran for an all out support to trace and punish all those responsible for the attack if found on Pakistani soil. The incident however deteriorated the steadily improving relationship between two brotherly Muslim countries.

    Nevertheless, an unanalyzed allegation from senior Iranian leadership has provided a serious setback to the sincerity of Government and the people of Pakistan. Indeed, after the Mujahedeen’s interim Government and later Taliban’s taken over of Afghanistan, India was practically evicted from that soil. Thereafter, it needed some space for the promotion of militancy in Pakistan.

    This was only possible by creating a rift in the bilateral relationship of Iran and Pakistan, who over the years, have been considering Afghanistan as their ‘strategic rear’, of course not on physical terms. Yet, the concept perhaps misled both in 1990s, once they were endeavouring to secure their respective interests. Now once that phase is over, there is a need to learn from the past for a positive move forward through consensus building.

    Under the changed global environment, there is a need that both countries to forget past annoyances and “forge a new long-term common vision reflecting their common security and economic interests.” The fleeting rip in the Pak-Iran relations has no sound basis, thus can be revamped through enhanced interactions at all level including by the masses from both sides.

    Indeed, the renaissance of cultural and religious affinities between Iran and Pakistan would go a long way. For this purpose, both need to ban the fissiparous forces persuading both or any of them. Mutual trust deficit, prevailing over the years has to be restored on priority. Both need to realize the looming threats around them and in the regional and global context.

    Presence of the extra regional forces in their neighbourhood, otherwise friendly to none, provides them yet another cause for the convergence.

    Pakistan-Iran relations in perspective | Pakistan Daily