Bright future for Pakistan-Iran relations


One of the oldest civilizations, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is situated in Western Asia, bordering Iraq and Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to the north, by Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, and by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south. It covers an area of 1,648,195 km2, making it the fourth-largest country entirely in Asia and the second-largest country in Western Asia behind Saudi Arabia. Iran has a population of 85 million, making it the 17th-most populous country in the world.

Iran is a regional and middle power, with a geopolitically strategic location in the Asian continent. It is a founding member of the United Nations (UN), the ECO, the OIC, and the OPEC. Iran’s recent entry into SCO is highly appreciated and warmly welcomed, it will add value to SCO, as well strengthen Iran’s stance in the region. It has large reserves of fossil fuels—including the second-largest natural gas supply and the fourth-largest proven oil reserves.

Iran is facing severe sanctions, and almost rivalry with Israel and the US, yet, emerging as an important regional power. Although Iran wants a peaceful coexistence with the Arab world, some of the Arabs under Western influence are taking Iran as a challenge and threat.

However, Pakistan and Iran share deep historic, cultural, linguistic, and religious ties. Their amicable relations date back to 1947 when Iran was the first country to recognize the newly established state of Pakistan. Both states signed a treaty of friendship in 1950.

Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran have been tested on several accounts such as the civil war in Afghanistan, sectarian tension, sanctions on Iran, and Iran’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has played the role of mediator in defusing tensions between arch-foes Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan sticks to its policy of peace, and unity among the Muslim world.

The recent statement of President Ebrahim Raisi that “Iran sees no boundaries for expanding cooperation with Pakistan in economic, business, energy, transportation, and cultural spheres”, needs to be widely projected. Highlight that increased meetings and talks between the two countries are key to comprehensive mutual cooperation.

A strong cultural and historical connection exists between the two countries and there is also huge potential for economic cooperation. Pakistan is Iran’s eighth-largest trading partner. There is a huge potential for further boosting trade between Pakistan and Iran, which stood at US $ 392.08 million with Pakistani exports mainly comprising rice, meat, paper, paper board, chemicals, textiles, fruit, and vegetables whereas major imports from Iran mainly comprise iron ore, hide and skins, and chemical products.

For the promotion of bilateral trade and enhanced cooperation between the two countries, the following measures have been taken in the recent past:-

     During the 21st session of the Pak-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC) hosted by Pakistan from August 16-18, 2022, both countries agreed to remove “anti-trade” tariffs and non-tariff barriers to enhance bilateral trade volume besides desiring to ink Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the next six months.

      Pakistan and Iran signed a 32-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) in June 2022 during Joint Trade Committee held in Zahedan (Iran). Both sides have agreed to take measures to expand annual trade exchanges by the year 2023.

      Pakistan has operationalized an additional border crossing point at Gabd-Reemdan in order to facilitate trade between the two countries.

      Members of the Iran-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group (PFG) discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations and enhancement of parliamentary cooperation between the two countries at a meeting held on 11 October 2021.

     China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan have established a platform for handling the emerging situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran strongly share views on regional security connected to Afghanistan.

    Iran’s Chief of General Staff of Armed Forces Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Nadeem Raza met in November 2021 and discussed ways for both countries to increase cooperation in defense, security, and counter-terrorism.

      Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline, also known as the Peace Pipeline, is under construction that would deliver gas from Iran into Pakistan; the project was halted due to the US sanctions on Iran. To broaden the economic ties between the two countries, the long-standing IP gas pipeline needs to be completed on a priority basis.

      The Chinese factor is highly important in shaping the future of Pak-Iran relations, therefore it may be highlighted that the implementation of the CPEC will bring the two states closer:-

      Gwadar and Chahbhar ports have gained tremendous significance due to their geostrategic location. Gwadar port is being managed by China under CPEC whereas the development of Chabahar port is funded by India under the tripartite Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Iran and Afghanistan. Both are located at the international energy trading route and provide connectivity to Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Therefore, Gwadar and Chabahar can be declared sister ports to increase the trade influx. However, Iran needs to ensure that Chabahar Port is not used for military purposes. Gwadar is a deep sea port, with huge potential and may become the largest deep sea port in this part of the world. It will emerge as the largest hub of economic activities in the whole region. Chahbahar and Gwadar are not competitors, but complement each other as sister ports. There is no conflict of interests, but, support each other in many aspects.

     CPEC will also facilitate the economic integration of the whole region besides providing a more convenient route to export Iran’s mega resources of oil and gas. CPEC will be facilitating the whole region in its trade and enhanced economic activities. China is the largest partner of Iran and Pakistan in infrastructure developments and economic developments and is a strong bond of Iran-Pakistan cooperation too.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan-Iran relations are based on mutual interests, and supporting each other just in their struggle for development, economic prosperity, and security in the region. Our close relations are neither against any third country nor pose any threat to any other state. We both are sovereign states and take all decisions in the best interest of each other, and regional as a whole.  However, the potential for cooperation between the two neighboring nations is huge, only the sky is the limit. It is desired to have collaboration and cooperation in all dimensions, in the days to come. There exists a very bright future for Pakistan-Iran relations and will benefit each other as well as will contribute toward regional and global peace, security, and development.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.