Rouhani’s visit


An opportunity that could have been much more


President Rouhani visited Islamabad at a time when the Middle East is facing destabilising terrorist threats and the Gulf is reeling under the impact of shrinking oil revenues while Iran has emerged as an island of stability with a great economic potential. Top Western leaders and representatives of multinational companies are visiting Tehran to benefit from the opportunities offered by the lifting of the sanctions. Pakistan which has the advantage of being a neighbour should have been the first to gain from the situation.

As Nawaz Sharif had already visited Iran thrice during his present tenure, one hoped he had understood the need to upgrade Pak-Iran relations at this juncture. In view of the importance attached to President Rouhani’s visit, it would have been more politic if the news about the arrest of the Indian spy who had entered from Iran had been withheld till after the visit. That the news was made public just two days before Rouhani’s visit indicated a conscious effort to synchronise it with the event. That an Indian spy had entered Pakistan from Iran was no doubt a serious matter. The best way was to hand over the issue to the FO which would have taken it up at the proper forum with better results than produced by the untimely announcement. The rest of the damage was done by the ISPR tweets which led to denial from Rouhani regarding any discussion with Pakistani leadership on RAW’s involvement in Balochistan. There is a need to realise that diplomatic matters should better be left to cool headed diplomats.

Rouhani had talked about helping in the development of the economic infrastructure of Pakistan and fulfilling its total energy needs. The visit which could have produced better results ended up in an exchange of fraternal rhetoric with little substance other than a joint task force to strengthen security, efforts to expand mutual trade to $5 b in five years and increase in the supply of electricity from Iran.