The Foreign Minister of Iran, Javad Zarif’s visit to Islamabad days before the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, can be interpreted as Iran’s pre-emptive move against any possible demand of the US from Pakistan against the former. Tehran’s only weapon against Trump’s aggression is diplomacy, and Iran is trying to reap its maximum benefits. Nonetheless, Iran is already feeling relieved as Pakistan has made it clear in early August that “it reserves the right to pursue legitimate economic and commercial interests” with Iran despite America’s re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran. In all these tense times, Islamabad has quite successfully put Washington’s pressure aside with diplomatic finesse.
However, it is yet to be seen if the visit of Mike Pompeo has any discussion on Iran. How Pakistan will respond to American demands on Iran is yet to be noticed. So far, Pakistan and Iran are consolidating the bilateral ties that have seen a thaw only recently. The chief architect of reinvigorating bilateral relations between the two brother states is Chief of Army Staff Qamar Bajwa who visited Iran in early November last year. Since then, both nations have exchanged many visits.
Zarif will not only meet his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Khurshid Shah; he will also see the Prime Minister Imran Khan and Qamar Bajwa. The frequent meetings between the high officials of the two neighbouring states are welcome as such engagements will pave a path for military and economic cooperation. Furthermore, giving more room to dialogues and meetings will also help in trust building between Islamabad and Tehran. Another reason for the warmth in bilateral relations is the fact that both sides have a convergence of opinion on many regional issues including Afghanistan.
The visit of Iranian foreign minister is the right time for Pakistan to bring up the proxy war that Saudi Arab and Iran are engaged into against each other. Riyadh and Tehran have presently reached the highest level of tension since the Iran-Iraq war. Instead of falling for the realist theory, which dominates international relations and affairs, both sides need to give room to pragmatism.
Both Imran Khan and Qamar Bajwa need to try their mettle on the tough turf of mediation. Pakistan is enjoying a unique status at the moment as both Saudi Arabia and Iran are making overtures towards Islamabad. Pakistan can convince both sides to adopt a few confidence-building measures to avoid an all-out war. The entire Middle East is unstable like never before because of rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh. Pakistan through shuttle diplomacy can bring Iran and Saudi Arab to the negotiations table, and it will balance its foreign policy between Iran and Saudi Arabia.