EghtesadOnline: The top Pakistani diplomat’s visit to Iran on Monday was solely focused on deescalating tensions between Tehran and Washington, an expert on South Asia said.
The meetings between Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and senior Iranian officials show that the country has a lot at stake in the region and all-out war between Iran and the US in no way serves the neighboring country’s interests, Mohsen Rouhisefat also told Iranian Diplomacy in an interview.
Asked whether the visit by the senior diplomat to Tehran was a response to Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s December trip to Iran, Rouhisefat said, “There are more pressing issues at hand right now, so I cannot see how the main reason for the minister’s visit could have been the promotion of bilateral ties.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have reached new highs in the wake of the assassination of top Iranian commander, major general Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump and Iran’s retaliatory missile attacks on two bases housing American forces in Iraq. Many countries have urged the two arch-enemies to exercise restraint and resolve the discord through dialogue.
According to Rouhisefat, the efforts made by Pakistan, including a statement of neutrality issued immediately after the US assassination of Iran’s top military official, indicate that Islamabad is not looking to become an intermediary between Tehran and Washington, and they are merely doing their utmost to help defuse the escalating regional tensions.
The expert also expounded on Pakistan’s delicate position in the region, bound to the US for military assistance against the nuclear-armed India and for its economic woes, and tied to Saudi Arabia for oil imports.
The South Asian country has also deep ties with Iran, with which it shares a long border. Thousands protested the assassination of Iran’s top commander in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and marched toward the US Consulate.
Rouhisefat added that these circumstances demonstrate how Pakistan is under immense pressure from both sides.
Although Pakistan is a Sunni Muslim-majority country, it has a fairly large Shia population.
“Diplomatic endeavors by Pakistan aim to satisfy public opinion at home and to keep a balance between Tehran-Islamabad relations and their ties with Saudi Arabia, the US and the UAE," he said.
Although the intense competition between India and Pakistan over the development of the port cities of Gwadar and Chabahar remains in place, Islamabad’s top priority for now is to deescalate tensions.
India has operational control of Shahid Beheshti Port (Phase 1 of Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran).
Located near the Sea of Oman, the port provides an alternative route for trade between India and Afghanistan, bypassing unsafe Pakistani routes.
Rouhisefat concluded that due to Pakistan’s need for American and Saudi Arabian economic and military assistance, and its geopolitical interests with Iran, it ought to act as a neutral player to appease them while avoiding a major regional conflagration.