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‘Iran & Pakistan can reshape region’

Published Aug 12, 2016 06:26am


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Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour.—White Star
Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour.—White Star

KARACHI: Iran and Pakistan have no option but to work together despite the obstacles created by “third parties”, and this cooperation can help stabilise the region, said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour here on Thursday.

The senior official, who has held several posts within the Iranian diplomatic machinery and heads the Centre for International Research and Education, was delivering a lecture on ‘Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking’ at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

“We [Pakistan and Iran] have no option other than to work together for our security, survival and preservation of our heritage. We need each other to secure and insulate our nations from” the state of flux that was rocking the global environment, he said. “Iran and Pakistan can reshape this region in a much better way. Our strategic interest is to” cooperate and expand cooperation, he added.

Dr Sajjadpour gave a detailed analysis of what he felt were the key issues affecting the global environment before moving into the Pakistan-Iran bilateral relationship. He said the global situation could be described through the help of three ‘Ts’.

The first ‘T’, he said, was turmoil. “There is turmoil in all levels; turmoil in institutions. Look at what happened to the European Union with the exit of Britain. This has caused shocks and a ripple effect. There is turmoil in mentalities; today politicians have one position, tomorrow they have another”, he said, adding that Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump was a prime example of this behaviour. “It’s not just a personal issue, it’s suggestive of a phenomenon,” Dr Sajjadpour observed with reference to Mr Trump’s antics.

“The concept of the nation state is in turmoil”, especially in the Arab states, said the Iranian diplomat. “There is turmoil in our surroundings, a perpetual ingredient in daily life.”

Shifting power

The second ‘T’, he said, was transition, with many ambiguities. “Transitions are excruciating processes. There is transition in the global system in many dimensions. There is transition in the concept of power. Is the US powerful? Yes. Can it exert its power? No, military power is not enough. Power-holders are becoming multiple. Now non-state actors are sometimes more powerful than states; ISIS [the militant Islamic State group] is one of them. Individuals have become powerful. Look at what [Edward] Snowden did. He challenged a great power, which he is a citizen of. The power locale is also changing,” he observed, adding that power was shifting from the West, primarily the US and Europe, to Asia, particularly China.

The third ‘T’, according to Dr Sajjadpour, affecting the world order, was trends of conflicting nature. “Globalisation is everywhere. But also, there is narrow-minded localisation, much lower than tribal mentality. There is purely personal and factional interest along with global interest. There is closeness of the world today, but it is also [growing] apart.”

In such a global and regional environment, Dr Sajjadpour said, Iran and Pakistan had no option but to work together. “We and Pakistan are neighbours. Do we have any other option than to be carefully watching our interests and minimising the impacts of these global trends [working] against our interests? We have no other option.”

‘Special neighbours’

The Iranian deputy FM said: “Our bonds should be appreciated. We are special neighbours. We are good neighbours with Armenia; [but this] can’t be compared with Pakistan. We have 15 neighbours, [but] our bonds with Pakistan are unique — regional, civilisational, linguistic, political, economic, strategic bonds, the list goes on. Our bonds need to be taken more seriously; they should be nurtured at this time of transition.”

Without naming regional and extra-regional actors, Dr Sajjadpour said: “These bonds are independent of third parties. There are many third parties who want to destroy these bonds. More cooperation is needed to make these bonds stronger.”

In Iran, he observed, there was a consensus on cooperating with Pakistan. “I have never [heard] one single dissenting voice on cooperation with Pakistan. I think here also there is consensus. We have to take this friendship more seriously.”

Answering questions from the audience, Dr Sajjadpour denied Iran was pursuing a sectarian foreign policy. “Others pursue a sectarian policy. The sectarian narrative has nothing to do with the policy of Iran. We are for Muslim unity.” He said there was a desire in some quarters to “weaken Muslim societies economically, socially and politically. We should be careful.”

Later, addressing journalists and former and present diplomats at an event organised by Karachi Council for Foreign Relations, Dr Sajjadpour said he noticed a few assumptions held by his Pakistani counterparts. “These assumptions are based on a misconstrued belief that Iran is a sectarian player. That it wants marginalisation of Pakistani society based on sect. Pakistanis are only used as proxies by Iran. And, the Iranians don’t take Pakistanis as seriously as they did before and after the revolution of 1979,” he explained.

These assumptions, he said, were created for political and strategic purposes. “It’d be in both our countries interest if former assumptions are deconstructed and corrected. And in its place, we focus on the fact that both Iran and Pakistan share a solid relationship,” he added.

However, he made it clear at the outset of the event that his views were not an official Iranian version of circumstances both Iran and Pakistan find themselves in rather based on his thinking. Keeping in mind the “realities of the region”, as Dr Sajjadpour put it, he said there were challenges facing both the countries. And that the Iran-Pak relations are “far better than they were around three years back.” In order to face those challenges, he added, the two brotherly countries needed to focus on a few building blocks. “Keeping our geography in mind, we can build a spectacular structure based on economic, cultural and individual exchanges between the two states and their people,” he said.

The deputy FM added that one of the biggest causes of increasing turmoil was the fear factor. “Fear of the other. And both our countries need to initiate a concept of meeting each other and talking out the differences rather than relying on assumptions.”

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2016


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Comments (44) Closed

sameer Aug 12, 2016 06:41am

Good, Iran Pakistan Zindabad. Iran is Pakistan's iron freind. The friendship is higher than Himalayas, deeper than Ocean and sweeter than Honey.

LoKarLoBaat Aug 12, 2016 06:45am

Now where have we heard that line before?

KarachiWala Aug 12, 2016 06:58am

I agree with him on Pakistan-Iran relations and whatever cooperation Iran has with India, should not be our issue.

Dawn Aug 12, 2016 07:02am

This is a good opportunity for Pakistan to capitalize on positive gesture extended by Iran

Seneca Aug 12, 2016 07:04am

PK has to pursue an indépendant foreign policy, indépendant from "brotherly" nations and world powers. That is not in PKs interest it is in the aforementioned interest at PK expense. Which begs the question why doesnt PK have an independent foreign policy? Beggars can't be choosers and unless they break the begging bowl they will continued to be lectured what to do. Finally to break the begging bowel there must be good governance, end of corruption and representative democracy.

personal experience Aug 12, 2016 07:17am

I was in Iran around the time floods hit Pakistan in 2010. People everywhere would ask me about the situation back home when they came to know I was from Pakistan.

Ayatollah Khamenei also spoke about the distinct place of Pakistan among Muslim nations and the sacrifices rendered by the Pakistanis. There were stalls set up in different areas after this and people would donate whatever they could for those affected by the floods.

Hopefully the mistrust that has been promoted by vested interests can be replaced by cooperation on a strategic level in the near future.

Ahmad Aug 12, 2016 07:27am

@KarachiWala Correct, Pak foreign policy should be like India. India has good relations with countries which are not in good relations with each others.

S.A.M. Aug 12, 2016 07:43am

Agha Sajjadpour thanks for coming to Karachi. Your conclusions are correct but the thing is our leadership does not care about Pakistan or its citizens. So you may expect some sensibility in the decisions and actions taken by our government but you should not be surprised if you see that the actions taken go totally against the interests of Pakistan. It is my advice instead of wasting your time trying to get a reliable deal with Pakistan you'd rather focus towards your north, west and east. Here the word they give would be honoured.

khanbaba Aug 12, 2016 07:51am

Excellent analysis,and Iran Pakistan are brothers.

imran Aug 12, 2016 08:00am

Completely and wholeheartedly agree with out Iranian brother. Pakistan and Iran are natural allies who need to increase their cooperation for the good of not just themselves but the entire region. Long live Pak Iran friendship.

Inqelab Zindabad Aug 12, 2016 08:01am

@khanbaba Doesnt matter brother or brother-in-law, iron or aluminum, u should have good releationship..thats what it matters...

Art KP Aug 12, 2016 08:06am

Rise above what India has with Iran, which don't even share borders. Pakistan and Iran are related by blood, history,culture and connected by similar languages.

Sarwat Aug 12, 2016 08:09am

Again, the opportunity knocks at foreign policy makers, let's see if they make a sensible decision this time around.

Sachin Aug 12, 2016 08:10am

Thank you Dr Seyed to use your good offices to open up a positive front with Pakistan. This is required for India's strategic interest too. Please push for need to build the Iran Pakistan India pipeline and build Chabahar port bigger and better than planned. Chabahar, Gwadar can change lives of the region of both Iranian and Pakistani Balochistans and coastal belt. Let people get a chance to live modern life.

Vikram Thappa Aug 12, 2016 08:13am

@khanbaba please create some punch line for Iran-Pak relations like- deeper than ocean & higher than mountains

citizen Aug 12, 2016 08:16am

But we depend on Saudi for so many things...

Farooq Aug 12, 2016 08:46am

Iran and Pakistan needs to work more closely. Excellent talk by a senior Iranian diplomat.

Umar Khitab Aug 12, 2016 08:51am

An Educated analysis

Abbas Naqvi Aug 12, 2016 09:02am

There are some issues in Pak-Iran relations that need to be sorted out. Border security issue is creating constraints on bilateral relations which have also been suffering due to a degree of lack of trust and confidence between the two neighbors. Despite enjoying historical, cultural, linguistic and religious commonalities, they have failed to exploit them properly to their benefit. The volume of bilateral trade is dismally low. In education, academic and culture fields there is hardly any activity. Exchange visits of students, academics, scholars, artists and journalists are not taking place resulting in poor projection of Pakistan's image in Iranian society. Pakistan and Iran need to clear the track of their ties of obstacles and irritants in order to set on the course of fraternal and friendly relations befitting the two neighboring countries. Only then will they be able to reshape the region.

J Abid Aug 12, 2016 09:18am

Wonderful and thought provoking views put forward by Dr Sajjadpour. Future prosperity and peace in the region lies in careful strengthening of bonds between Iran and Pakistan. Pakistan should play a constructive role in bringing Saudi Arab and Iran closer and avoid unnecessary Sunni-Shia rivalries. Pakistan is in a unique position to play a bigger role once internal fights against corruption and good governance are conquered.

Hope. Aug 12, 2016 09:22am

Truth is Pakistan and Iran helped a lot. Pakistan has helped Iran during recent days of sanctions. Iranian India relation ship is a balancing act and Pakistan should be cautious but not threatened,

IRS Aug 12, 2016 09:28am

First step is to Make strict border Management with Iran. Trade and Energy should be 1st priority. We can not take countries on our side until we are Big Economy, that's possible only Through Business and Trade with neighbors..

Mike Aug 12, 2016 09:31am

@Vikram Thappa Unfortunately the pain and suffering seems to be very deep when it comes to Pakistan and China relations!!!

Baaligh Aug 12, 2016 09:47am

"“Iran and Pakistan can reshape this region in a much better way. Our strategic interest is to” cooperate and expand cooperation, he added.". In case of better co-ordination this goal could easily have already been achieved long time ago. Nevertheless, there is still time and both neighbours can still achieve a lot if...if all necessary measures are taken from both sides on urgent / priority basis. Time and tide wait for none and hope no further time will be spent (wasted) in just talks without concrete steps.

Baaligh Aug 12, 2016 09:55am

@citizen : "But we depend on Saudi for so many things...". Excessive dependence on any one is not wise at all. Need to pay urgent attention towards oft-repeated gestures from Iran for the sake of our own benefits ...if not for any thing else. Should stop paying heed to undue and unrealistic concerns of any country / ruler.

INDIAN LOVE Aug 12, 2016 10:04am

India have noticeable political influence , economical influence , strong military influence , so every country want good relationship with India . So Iran-Saudi-Isreal , japan-china , US-Russia etc all want healthy relationship with India.

Khalid Aug 12, 2016 10:05am

When Indian spy caught in Pakistan resident in Iran than it is an issue. The talk are good but it ends with the statement that this is not the official statement from Iran Gov, I do agree we both need to sort out our differences however we will have to show our resolve on the ground. Friend of India can not be friend of Pakistan and that is the truth sooner we understand is better for Pakistan.

Amir Ali khan Aug 12, 2016 10:05am

This analysis should help Pakistan frame a better and more successful foreign policy . We need to look for and identify, and deal appropriately with the factors/elements , internal as well external, that are driving a wedge of mistrust between the two countries .

INDIAN LOVE Aug 12, 2016 10:08am

Iran & Pakistan both need huge investment to derive their economy. Iran seeks investment from India . Pakistan seeks investment from Saudi Arabia.

kalhoro Aug 12, 2016 10:25am

After KSA now its turn for Iran to get cheap labor but our government will be able to use their resources why we always rent them nothing against neighbors to use them at least they are improving poor people livelihood. Pakistan Kahpey

Mustafa R. Aug 12, 2016 10:38am

Our common friend China is much more important than any other third country.

Mustafa R. Aug 12, 2016 10:46am

Iran has 15 neighbors? That is news to me, I could stretch to only seven land boundaries including the disputed region of Nogorno-Karabakh.

KT Aug 12, 2016 10:46am

Its good initiative to boost trade among two countries. Actions and decisions must be taken faster for proposals between two countries so both are benefited. Same time USA interests must also be well guarded. A railway line joining two countries via Afghanistan should be proposed.

Li-N-Ja Aug 12, 2016 10:57am

Nice to see that we are trying to find common ground based on which the relationship can be taken to next logical step. If we come out of narrow mindset there are plenty of common ground where the two countries can work jointly for mutual benefit. Pakistan can involve Iran to resolve the issues at it northern front and issues related to Afghanistan. There is huge possibility for Pakistan to export to Iran and technical collaboration on Hydrocarbon. If Pakistan allows Indo-Iran Oil pipeline, it will not only help Pakistan to earn royalty but also cheaper oil. The problem is we harp more on differences rather than finding common ground to work together. We must realise that difference may be there, but we can still work together jointly for the benefit of people of both the countries.

ZAK Aug 12, 2016 11:51am

I really appreciate the boldness of Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour to partner with Pakistan, but will China make some space?

Naeem Aug 12, 2016 12:04pm

I am all out for better relationship with Iran considering the geopolitical situation. It is very discouraging to read at the end of his talk that his views are not official Iranian version then what for he is here, we all know the importance of bilateral relationship and importance of cordial environments. We also know how Iran is acting in the hand of Indians and giving them room to operate freely from their soil, catching Indian serving intelligence commander is not a kid’s play. There must be established racket in Iran and official support of their Intelligence agencies. The only objective of his lecture is to, smoothen the impression that Iran is all out for friendship and not involved in helping Indian to create unrest in Pakistan. Nevertheless, I would strongly suggest to Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister that seriousness and sincerity can be seen by the act of the individuals therefore if they are serious then should come up with some tangible solutions and then act accordingly.

SKhan Aug 12, 2016 12:08pm

Before Gen Zia's regime both Pak and Iran were good friends. Both countries have to look back and analyze what went wrong.

Aftab Aug 12, 2016 12:18pm

If we both are aware of 'third parties', why just can't we defeat it? Let's be friends. Pakistan can't afford to lose Iran and Afghanistan.

mirza Aug 12, 2016 12:37pm

Its imperative to reactivate "RCD Agreement" between Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. Its time, need and unavoidable reality.

M. Asghar Aug 12, 2016 01:13pm

On the geopolitical level, for the region, solid collaboration among Iran, Pakistan and Turkey is essential.

fida USA Aug 12, 2016 01:30pm

Dr Sajjadpour sums up his analysis of Iran Pakistan relations meticulously and highlighting that fear factor and false assumptions are the root causes of the problem between the two brotherly neighbors, who share religious and cultural ties. It is in the interest of both the nations to sit together and consult and remove the fear factor and false assumptions.

Iftikhar Husain Aug 12, 2016 04:06pm

Very nice observation this shows that there are people who care about Pakistan and its problems. We are more to Iran than any other country. There must be social and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Omer Aziz Aug 12, 2016 04:40pm

Always loved Iranians, always will.

Shafiq Ahmad Aug 13, 2016 05:35pm

Excellent analysis of relationship, between two countries by the respected deputy FM of Iran.It's time to take initiative, to decrease our enemies and increase our friends in our neighbours.