Pakistan’s foreign ministry has taken one of its first decisive steps in the realm of international relations, one that could cause a major shift in our foreign policy, and diplomatic relations with other countries. Shah Mahmood Quereshi, the Foreign Minister, announced on Friday, that Pakistan supported Iran’s principled stance on JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in the wake of USA’s unilateral with-drawl, and expressed the hope that remaining parties to the agreement would uphold their commitments in letter and spirit. This show of support from Quereshi comes in the aftermath of two-days talks held with Iran’s FM, Javad Zarif, talks which were evidently successful considering renewed cooperation between the two countries.
Though it was consequential, this was a good firm action by our foreign ministry. US’s unilateral withdrawal from JCPOA drew condemnation from various countries, including its European allies. A strong stance from Pakistan, Iran’s neighbour, was required, and could lead to a new era of Pakistani-Iranian relations. A fair agreement towards de-nuclearisation, and stability in the Iranian region, which is what JCPOA could have provided, would have been beneficial for both Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan’s standing by Iran on this issue also lends support to the new policy that has been forming itself since the Trump Doctrine, that of regional connectivity and support, which envisions closer ties with China, Russia and Central Asian states, and lessening dependence on the West.
However, as with every assertive diplomatic move, we must expect a reaction. One cannot underestimate the timing of Zarif’s visit and this showing of support- just days before the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pakistan. Yet, United States cannot say it is surprised. The US has been increasingly hostile to Pakistan, and has not given in to any opportunity to cooperate to get Pakistan on board. Yet, at the same time Pakistan must be clear on the fact that a diplomatic or economic conflict with the United States is in no one’s interest. The best thing for both nations – Pakistan and Iran – would be to seek peaceful solutions
The ball is in the foreign ministry’s court now- which has to deal with what must be a disgruntled US government. While this support for JCPOA was a needed step, it risks deteriorating relations with two of our biggest aid influencers, Saudi Arabia and United States, so Pakistan should be careful not to antagonise the US any further.