Bridging borders: Analyzing the implications of Iran’s visit to Pakistan

On 22 April, Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi paid a three-day visit to Pakistan.  After Pakistan’s election on Feb 8th, he became the first foreign public figure to visit the country. His travel agenda has included counterterrorism, border security, business relations, the future of the Iran-Pakistan gas project, and enlisting Pakistan’s support for Iran during the volatile Middle East situation. The timing of the Iranian president’s visit, according to many observers, underscores the seriousness of Pakistan-Iran relations

Iran and Pakistan are neighbors and share many things, including food, culture, architecture, and history. Iran was the first country to acknowledge Pakistan shortly after its independence, as history attests to and stood behind Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan conflicts of 1965 and 1971. In the meantime, following the Iranian Revolution, Pakistan was the first nation to recognize a new Islamic government1979. However, since Iran was no longer in the US camp, events after 1979 had a significant impact on Pakistan-Iran ties. However, in the long run, a shift in the geopolitical landscape does not damage ties between the two nations.

Increasing violent non-state actor attacks between their respective country’s borders are a source of concern for Pakistan and Iran. The increasing power of Indian proxies close to Pakistan’s border with Iran, particularly in the vicinity of Chabahar port, has long been a source of grievance for Pakistan. India has invested billions of dollars in the port under the guise of economic growth. Unfortunately, a number of Pakistani intelligence assessments and the 2016 arrest of Indian naval commander Kulbhushan Jadhav suggested that India was engaging in espionage efforts to sow discord in Baluchistan. Concerns of anti-Iranian elements close to the Pakistani border have also been expressed by Iran.

The possible future of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project has also been discussed by the Iranian president. In the midst of Pakistan’s energy crisis, this project was first launched in March 2013. International pressure has prevented Pakistan from keeping its pledges made in the project though, even after ten years. Additionally, Pakistan will be fined $17 billion for violating the terms of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Though Iran is willing to give Pakistan additional time to finish the project given the pressure from other countries, both countries still wish to proceed with the project because Pakistan’s government has ordered that 80km pipeline within the country be completed.

On the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, the spokesperson said Pakistan would pursue the project in its own national interests.

“Pakistan has energy needs. Pakistan will make decisions on the basis of its national interest in fulfilling its energy requirements, taking into account the international environment, taking into account the UN sanctions, if any, and issues relating to trade with other countries, including in the energy domain,” she said.

With the nation’s energy problem getting worse and thermal energy being a costly supply, Pakistan stands to gain greatly from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Under the greatest economic crisis the nation has ever experienced, Pakistan’s energy import bail increased to 17$ billion dollar last year. Pakistan, is well aware of the fact that lower-cost thermal energy will cause energy import bail to plunge. Still, America has alluded to possible penalties against Pakistan to further its objective of isolating Iran economically.

Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, in a press conference, emphasized that the government would prioritize national interests and deter any external interference regarding the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

The president of Iran has pledged to increase commerce between Iran and Pakistan to $10 billion to boost the regional economy. As the leading advocate of regional commerce, Pakistan is once again the real beneficiary in this situation. To alleviate the financial crisis, Pakistan could strengthen it’s economic relations with Iran.  Additionally, the peaceful extension of CPEC from the Middle East to South and Central Asia may be aided by Chinese investments in Iran and Pakistan.

The recent by Irani President Ebrahim Raisi to Pakistan marks a turning point in the two nations’ bilateral ties and could have geostrategic implications for the region. The implications include increased economic integration; boosted trade to $10 billion a year, Regional connectivity; gas pipeline project, Strategic balancing, and Security cooperation; and joint efforts to combat terrorism.

In summary, Pakistan’s autonomous foreign policy behavior determines the course of Iran-Pakistan ties. There don’t seem to be many chances for full-fledged cooperation given the state of the world economy, Pakistan’s reliance on the West, and the country’s perspective. Pakistan must act in its own best interests, though, as it cannot turn its back on a significant neighbor on the presence of a warning from the West.


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