Exploring the Dynamics of Pakistan-Iran Relations


Pakistan and Iran, two close neighbors in South Asia and the Middle East, respectively, have long-standing relationships. Since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, the two countries have had a modern relationship that has been marked by a combination of collaboration and complexity. Historical, geographical, economic, and religious issues have all had an impact on their bilateral relations. This article explores the dynamics between Pakistan and Iran, illuminating the significant factors that have influenced their ties over time. The relationship has recently been characterized by both cooperation and competition.

The shared security concerns between Pakistan and Iran are one of the primary factors fostering cooperation. Both nations have an interest in battling terrorism and extremism because they are both in complex regions. They have collaborated on a variety of subjects, such as commerce, energy, and infrastructure, as well as efforts to advance regional stability.

But the relationship between Iran and Pakistan also faces certain difficulties. The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest obstacles. There have occasionally been conflicts between Pakistan and Iran as a result of both nations competing for influence in the region. Despite the rapprochement between the two states, still both countries are competing for power in the region. Additionally, there are considerable religious distinctions between the two nations, which occasionally causes conflict.

The evolving international environment has presented new challenges and opportunities for Pakistan-Iran relations. The withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, has created uncertainty in the region.

The Iran Nuclear Deal,, is an agreement reached in July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China—plus Germany). The agreement was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by limiting its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018. This has led to increased tensions between Iran and the West, which could have a negative impact on Pakistan-Iran relations.

Positive changes have also occurred, though, and they may contribute to the relationship’s improvement. The two nations have cooperated on a number of topics, including the Afghan peace process and the fight against terrorism, because they both have an interest in fostering regional stability. Moreover, Pakistan and Iran’s cooperation is being increasingly recognized as being necessary for ensuring regional security.

Regional Security and Stability

Regional security and stability are now more crucial than ever because of how the world is changing. In terms of terrorism, radicalism, and the unstable conditions in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran have similar worries. In order to handle these shared security problems, increased coordination and intelligence sharing between the two nations is now necessary. Additionally, Pakistan and Iran try to negotiate regional issues in order to maintain peace and keep themselves out of larger crises while geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and South Asia persist.

Geopolitical Shifts and Balancing Act

The relationship between Pakistan and Iran is made more complex by the diverse character of geopolitics. Iran, a key role in the Middle East, has strained ties with the West, particularly the United States, on issues including its nuclear program and international sanctions. On the other hand, Pakistan continues to maintain strategic alliances with the US and Saudi Arabia, which has occasionally resulted in differences in their stances on regional and international matters. Both nations must exercise skillful diplomacy and wise decision-making in order to navigate these geopolitical complications.

Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia

The geopolitical situation is made more intriguing by the triangular interactions between Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always had close connections, whereas Iran sees Saudi Arabia as a foe in the area. This puts Pakistan in a difficult balancing act as it tries to maintain close ties with Saudi Arabia without upsetting Iran. It takes diplomatic dexterity to navigate this delicate triangle in order to prevent tensions from rising and harming regional security.

Afghanistan, A Common Interest

Given their common border and the security issues it poses for both neighbors, Pakistan and Iran’s relations with Afghanistan are greatly influenced by this instability. Cross-border movements of terrorists, the smuggling of weapons, and illegal immigration are made easier by the porous border, raising worries about everyone’s security. Additionally, both countries have faced resource constraints and humanitarian issues as a result of the flood of Afghan refugees. Although Pakistan and Iran both have an interest in stabilizing Afghanistan to address these security and humanitarian challenges, differences in their regional engagement strategies and approaches to resolving conflicts can occasionally cause their bilateral relations to become strained. In order to balance their geopolitical interests and work towards regional peace, Pakistan and Iran must continue to manage the volatility in Afghanistan.

Military Cooperation

A complicated and developing facet of Pakistan and Iran’s bilateral relations has been their military cooperation. Over the years, both nations have cooperated militarily in a variety of ways, influenced by regional security dynamics and shared objectives.

Border Security: Border security has been one of the main areas of military cooperation between Pakistan and Iran. Due to the length and porousness of the shared border, problems with smuggling, illegal immigration, and cross-border militant activity have arisen. They have implemented cooperative border patrols and intelligence-sharing channels to solve these problems.

Counterterrorism Initiatives: Pakistan and Iran have worked together to combat terrorist threats coming from their common border area. Both countries have shared concerns about terrorist organizations operating in border regions, which has resulted in intelligence sharing and cooperative military operations.

Military Exercises: The armed forces of Pakistan and Iran often engage in joint training exercises. In domains like counterterrorism and disaster management, these exercises seek to improve cooperation, increase interoperability, and exchange best practices.

Defense industry cooperation: Through their domestic defense industries, Pakistan and Iran both tried to improve their defense capabilities. In the design and manufacture of military systems and equipment, there have been examples of technology transfer and cooperation.

Maritime Security: Pakistan and Iran have a common interest in maintaining maritime security and protecting regional shipping lanes because of their close proximity to the Arabian Sea. To improve maritime cooperation and prepare for potential security challenges, they took part in naval exercises.

Regional security concerns have been raised by Pakistan and Iran, particularly the state of affairs in Afghanistan and the larger Middle East. A crucial component of their military cooperation has been communication and coordination on issues relating to regional security.

Recently in July Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir visited Iran, the visit reaffirms the bilateral cooperation among the two states, and reiterated commitment to expand military education, defense and security cooperation.

Balochistan; A Factor in Pakistan-Iran Relation

Balochistan’s strategic position and intricate geopolitical dynamics have historically played a crucial role in affecting relations between Pakistan and Iran. Both Pakistan and Iran have expressed concern about Baluchistan’s security issues as a result of the province’s shared borders with both nations. The region has seen the activity of numerous militant and separatist groups, which has resulted in cross-border terrorism and put both countries’ stability and sovereignty at risk. To fight these dangers and ensure border security, Pakistan and Iran have demonstrated a greater willingness to work together on security issues by engaging in cooperative military operations and intelligence-sharing projects.

Economic Prospects

Economic cooperation is a driving force behind the development of strong international alliances between nations. A strong economic link between Pakistan and Iran is made possible by their shared history and close proximity. Exploring opportunities for cooperation and mutual gain becomes essential as both countries work to realize their enormous economic potential.

Pakistan-Iran economic relations are based on the trade of energy. For Pakistan’s energy requirements, Iran, which has abundant oil and gas reserves, is the best option. The project to build the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline intends to increase Pakistan’s energy security by supplying natural gas to that country. Implementation of the project has been complicated by international sanctions on Iran. Islamabad’s temporarily halted pipeline project  earlier this month, according to the media reports the decision appears to be influenced by United States pressure.who has imposed sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program. According to the agreement if Pakistan backs from the commitment it has to pay 18 billion dollars as a fine. But to deal with this situation the two sides are in negotiations to reach a solution which is suitable for the sides, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Reza Amiri Moghadam gave these remarks during a seminar held by Islamabad Policy Research Institute.

Recently, the two sides have agreed to do the barter trade on specific goods including petroleum and gas to maximize the trade potential. The Border Sustenance Markets Project, which was inaugurated on 18th May, 2023 by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, gives locals and the nation’s citizens optimism for thriving enterprises and increased revenue.

Chabahar and Gwadar Port

Gwadar, a Pakistani port city, is not too far from Chabahar. The two ports of Gwadar and Chabahar should grow as sisters rather than as competitors, according to Pakistan. By increasing communication via railroads, roads, and maritime ties, the two ports should complement one another in fostering trade in the area. Both Gwadar and Chahbahar’s economies would benefit from trade cooperation, which would also provide job possibilities.

For Pakistan-Iran ties, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a centerpiece project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is important. Through the construction of commerce and infrastructure corridors, the CPEC aims to link the Pakistani port of Gwadar with China’s Xinjiang province. In the meantime, India’s participation in the development of Iran’s Chabahar Port seeks to balance the impact of the CPEC and improve India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The geopolitical nexus between Chabahar and Gwadar, where the interests of numerous nations converge and cross, is intricate and fascinating. Both the strategically positioned deep-sea ports of Chabahar in Iran and Gwadar in Pakistan have the potential to significantly alter regional connectivity and trade. Various global entities, each striving to maximize their own interests and power, have shown interest in the development and use of these ports.

The intricate interaction of geopolitical interests in the area is reflected in the Chabahar-Gwadar nexus. Through these ports, Iran, Pakistan, India, and China are attempting to pursue their economic and strategic objectives, making it difficult to navigate the multiple interests that are there. To make sure that the development of Chabahar and Gwadar Ports contributes to regional wealth and stability, diplomatic dexterity, constructive dialogue, and practical cooperation are crucial. The Chabahar-Gwadar nexus can be a catalyst for regional connectivity and economic integration, generating reciprocal advantages for all parties involved, by acknowledging the possibility for win-win outcomes and finding common ground.

The changing global landscape presents opportunities and challenges for relations between Pakistan and Iran. Both nations must modify their approaches to foreign policy as regional and global dynamics evolve in order to safeguard their interests and promote collaboration. Building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship will depend on managing geopolitical complexity, improving economic links, and enhancing regional security through counterterrorism collaboration. Additionally, encouraging intercultural dialogue and people-to-people interactions will promote mutual understanding between Pakistan and Iran, opening the path for a stronger and more fruitful collaboration in the face of a constantly shifting external environment.

Aimen Jamil
Aimen Jamil
Aimen Jamil's intellectual curiosity lies at the intersection of Middle East and Pakistan Foreign Policy. She can be reached at aimenjamil0@gmail.com. Pursuing International Relations as her majors.


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