Trilateral posturing


The trilateral summit’s central significance no doubt lay in studying the Afghan endgame and beyond, yet Iran’s presence introduced subtle complications involving players from the region, the Persian-Arabian Gulf, as well as from well across the Atlantic. The outcome is generally Pakistan-positive, even if it aggravates risks.
One, neither Zardari nor Karzai needed lecturing on the US take on the Ahmadinejad invite. That they are willing to put the entire weight of US policy aside to accommodate Tehran indicates increased focus on regional management, an appreciated novelty. Two, Zardari’s all to visible desire to speed up the IPI, currency swaps and all, betrays much deeper division with the US than understood in the initial aftermath of the Salala check post attack. Three, one and two will not only upset America’s disengagement with Afghanistan, they will also disfigure the Washington-led intense sanctions regime against Tehran. As for Pakistan, the script is clear. TAPI may or may not be in the offing, but IPI is a definite go. Four, the Iran angle, and the timing of it, will also cast a long shadow on Islamabad’s give-and-take with the GCC, where interestingly, billions in annual military flows cite Iran ahead of Israel as the chief concern.
Whatever the exogenous compulsions, Islamabad has picked the right card out of the deck, putting local needs ahead of wish lists from friends and partners. The IPI, already delayed, is mission critical for the country’s energy needs. It might just prevent caving in of our manufacturing and industry, at the same time providing fiscal breathing room to Iran in troubled times. However behind the curve, the region’s leadership seems to have realised it must stick together if American departure and Taleban ascent are to be contained.