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Pak-Iran relations: A single decision can shape Pakistan’s future

Pakistan is at the verge of a new beginning as it’s geopolitical position and the new leadership is complimenting to its value globally.  CPEC is opening a new horizon of opportunities for the region, and Pakistan is all set to reap maximum out of it.  The global interest in Pakistan is apparent. The Financial Times has depicted the possibilities of a brighter future by stating that the current trend will allow Pakistan to emerge as a much stronger, and prosper country in the coming times.

Iran shares 950 km border with Pakistan and enjoys a love-hate relationship. In the beginning, Pakistan and Iran enjoyed friendly bilateral cooperation in economic, security, and cultural matters. In 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, Iran provided material and moral support to Pakistan against India. The situation transformed when Pakistan became the US ally in Afghan War (1979-88), and Iran started perceiving Pakistan as a proxy for U.S. Moreover, “War on Terror, which bought Pakistan and US closer added to the trust deficit between Tehran and Islamabad.  The love-hate relationship has witnessed skirmishes along the borders, Iranian threatening to take action inside Pakistan against terror groups, accusations of cross-border terrorism, and Iranian drone shot down in Pakistan, etc.

In the present time, another challenge confronts the Pakistan- Iran relationship, making the incumbent PM Imran Khan visit to Iran significantly relevant.

The Iran and KSA rivalries have a 40 years old history which influenced the region in multiple ways, draining out investment, and claiming lives. The Shia and Suni sectarian divide is now much more than that. The global powers having a minimum stake involved in the conflict are aiming to gain maximum from it. The two oil giants have been confronting each other for the last four decades. The dispute has drastically affected Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.  On Feb 13, 2019, sixty countries participated in the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East which, held in Warsaw, the Poland capital. A critical analysis of the conference reveals the USA, Israel, and KSA aimed to target Iran through that platform. It was nothing more than an effort to lobby and convince the other states to confront Iran and regime change proactively. The initiative was considerably unsuccessful as a majority of the nations either excuse or offered moral support to the cause. But it is evident that the situation is intensifying with seemingly no solution on the table.  The conflict has divided the world into two major blocks, where Russia, France, Turkey, Germany, Palestine and Qatar are against the USA, KSA, and Israel’s confronting stance against Iran. On the other hand, in Iran on 13th February 2019, a suicide car bombing killed 27 Revolutionary Guards, creating an air of terror in the region.

Till now Pakistan has maintained a delicate balance on the KSA and Iran issue, but can Pakistan sustain this balance in the future as well, is now a critical question.  In the recent past, Pakistan friendship with KSA has revived and strengthened like never before. KSA, a time tested friend is making a dedicated effort to pull Pakistan out of the current financial crisis and provide the much-needed runway for a flight towards prosperity. 17th February is nothing less than a day of honour and pride for Pakistan as a nation.  It formed the foundation of sustainable development, growth and success in the country.  It was a time to celebrate, and appreciate this friendship spreading over the decades. At the same time, it’s also the time to rationally analyze the situation, and don’t let the glitter blind.  Pakistan has to, at any cost; maintain the balance between Iran, and KSA.  One unwise decision can impart a fatal blow on its journey to success as Pakistan is a diverse country with different sects.  The sectarian violence which erupted in the 1980s triggered a sectarian divide, and the whole country was left burning, and Pakistan cannot be exposed to such terror again at this critical time.  Any imbalance on relations with KSA and Iran may lead to such a situation domestically.

The dream of prosperity, growth, development, and better life rests on peace in the country and the region. Pakistan has earned that peace after sacrificing 75000 precious lives.  Maintaining a balance between relations with Iran, and KSA will be the real test of Imran Khan’s leadership and wisdom. He and his wise decision can make this new beginning with KSA a breakthrough of prosperity. On the other hand, if there are any strings attached to this new strengthening relations, it will lead to another dark valley of violence, bloodshed, insecurity, and terror.  Only this one decision can Pakistan’s future.