Post sanctions Pak-Iran relations

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Historic opportunity

Pakistan and Iran are next door neighbours. They also share a common cultural tradition and have close linguistic ties. A world wide Pew survey conducted last month reveals that Pakistan is the only country where majority comprising 57pc views Iran positively. It is anomalous under the circumstances that for sixteen years no Pakistani prime minister paid an official visit to Iran till Nawaz Sharif took the initiative last year. Part of the reason lies in US sanctions.

With the perceived threat of Iran’s nuclear programme dissipating, the US would not hopefully encourage terrorism inside Iran. This would reduce the terrorist menace in Balochistan also. One expects the US, Pakistan and Iran to jointly fight the threat posed by the fast expanding IS. If Pakistan and Iran agree to jointly support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned settlement instead of working at cross purposes in Afghanistan, this would the sound death knell for sectarian terrorism

Pakistan has friendly relations with the Sunni Arab states of the Gulf. The removal of sanctions on Iran and its improved relations with the US has caused distress to Saudi royals who feel jilted. The other Gulf countries have also developed a sense of insecurity. Pakistan needs to act as a mediator between the two sides. The balancing act would require a level of diplomatic finesse few expect from the present government. What provides some confidence is that Pakistan has in the past also performed the feat by simultaneously maintaining friendly relations with the US and China, and played key role in breaking the ice between them.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran opens a vista of economic opportunities for Pakistan. Suspended work on the Iran gas pipeline needs to be taken up urgently. Several other mega projects related to power transmission and extension and improvement of road-cum-rail network should be initiated at the earliest. It would be the height of incompetence to miss the historic opportunity.