LAHORE - “Iranian President’s visit should be seen as a harbinger of a sea change in our bilateral relations,” says an IPR brief released Wednesday, ahead of the visit of the neighbouring country’s president.

The IPR said the two countries can significantly contribute to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. The brief, written by Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, asserts that Pakistan must prioritize its “own national interests above those of foreign patrons”. Several factors have prevented the relationship from growing into a strong strategic and economic partnership, according to the brief.

With gradual lifting of sanctions, the situation in Iran has eased. President Rouhani’s visit is taking place with the region still hostage to the uncertain Syrian and Afghan situations. The leadership of Iran and Pakistan must coordinate to navigate this treacherous political landscape of their shared region. Accordingly, the more positive prospect of enhancing regional connectivity through initiatives such as CPEC and other trans-regional energy projects should provide the geo-economic context for Pakistan’s future relations with all its neighbours, including Iran.

Despite political differences, it is much easier to shift to a win-win strategy within a geo-economic context than it is in an exclusively geo-political or geo-strategic context. This shift is an absolute imperative for strategic success in the far more complex and integrated world of the 21st century.

There are plans for a five-year road map to increase bilateral trade with Iran from its current pathetic level of $250 million to $5 billion per annum. Banking channels and much more reliable data on border trade and smuggling will be required on which to base trade and investment strategies. Moreover, financing for the much-delayed Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline may be more feasible now that international sanctions against Iran have been lifted. Gwadar and Chabahar can become sister ports to handle anticipated rapid increases in regional trade and economic flows.

“Instead of viewing the Iranian President’s visit as a normal diplomatic occurrence, we must view it as an opportunity to move our bilateral relations forward by many leaps,” IPR brief said.