In the wake of its nuclear deal with major powers Tehran is tip-toeing back to the world stage, as if to play its role as a regional power for which it has the right potential both economic and political. Shunning its decades-long diplomatic isolation it has reactivated contacts with others in the region and beyond inviting them for constructive engagement on issues of contention.
How determined is Tehran to walk this road it is suggested by two of its latest foreign policy indicatives: It has offered to meet Saudi Arabia and others at Vienna to discuss Syria and its national security chief arrived in Islamabad to dispel misunderstandings and strengthen bilateral co-operation. Iran says it is for peace in Syria, and ‘if anyone wants to test our intentions we accept the challenge’.
It will be for the first time in four years of civil war in Syria that the Iranian foreign ministry officials would be attending the multilateral talks. And the Iran’s top security official, Admiral Ali Shamkhani (Retd) was in Islamabad on a two-day visit. With Pakistan, Iran doesn’t have any major issue of contention, but even then their bilateralism lacked the desire warmth warranted by the fact of their close neighbourhood and commonality of their cultural heritage.
Even when it is quite obvious that what has divided them is not the making of their governments’ deliberate policies their relationship remains hostage to non-state actors, some of them being proxies of others and others victims of their fanatic mindsets. As to where the two countries stand vis-à-vis one another Ali Shamkhani’s openness at a presser he jointly addressed with his counterpart lends the much-needed clarity. He took questions on all bilateral and regional issues and his replies were direct and frank which we think should help figure out Pak-Iran relationship in its correct perspective.
In sum total, Ali Shamkhani addressed all major concerns common to both Pakistan and Iran, and offered his country’s co-operation in political, economic, defence and security fields. Of particular interest, if not concern, to the host government is widely perceived India’s bid to build Iranian port of Chabahar as counter to Gwadar port. On this he assured Pakistani authorities that it is a misperception.
And that stands confirmed in the light of his take on Kashmir that is a dispute needed to be settled and his rejection of anti-beef Hindu extremists’ campaign. One other issue of bilateral concern is violence on the common border and incidence of terrorism by the proxies in Balochistan and some other parts of the country. Pakistan feels it is victim of the fallout of the rivalry between powers on both sides of the Gulf.
Both sides agreed to cooperate more and tackle the menace of terrorism along the common border and problems of smuggling and drug trafficking. That is good, but not enough – because this is not the first time the two sides agreed to do, but realities on ground haven’t changed. That terrorism and extremism in Muslim countries is sponsored by Jewish community and not their own creation, on this the Iranian security chief was expected to be more elaborate.
Iranian security chief’s visit is welcomed. More such contacts are needed as the security situation in the region is rapidly evolving – positively, because Iran is returning to the world stage and negatively, because of the rise of so-called ‘Islamic State’ or Daesh.
Daesh is a threat to international peace and must be fought and defeated. One must not, however, lose sight of the fact that Daesh is a product of Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, which was illegal as accepted by its chief architect Tony Blair, and highly oppressive rule and divisive politics of the then prime minister Nouri-al Maliki. It’s good to know that Iran and Pakistan would jointly fight the menace of Daesh. But besides this there is much more they can agree to undertake jointly, more crucially by promoting sectarian harmony among the peoples of the two states.
Source: Business Recorder