By Mohammad Mazhari

Pakistan can attain prominent global stature via Iran and China: analyst

January 19, 2021 - 12:18

TEHRAN – A member of an Islamabad-based think tank believes that a triple partnership between Iran, China, and Pakistan can enhance Islamabad’s global position.

“For Pakistan, if this triangle was properly made, it will surely attain a prominent stature in the global arena,” Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai, a senior research associate at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), tells the Tehran Times.  

“Iran is a crucial player in the Middle East (West Asia) due to its strategic and security influence in addition to its natural resources, historical and cultural linkages,” Yousafzai adds.

However, the rapprochement between these three regional players has adversaries.

“The U.S. won’t want this partnership to be strengthened as it can threaten or at least challenge the U.S. interests in the region,” notes Yousafzai, who says his views do not represent the official policy of the SVI.

The following is the text of the interview:


Q: Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran are to resume operations of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) railway. What is the importance of this development for Pakistan and other partners to the project?

A: The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) railway track that was launched in 2009 under the umbrella of the Economic Cooperation Organization is of great significance to all the three-member states: Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Its significance is many-fold: being short, reducing the cost of the fare, and time-saving, boosting trade between the member states along with other benefits. It will boost trade between the member states and will provide a chance of its extension to Europe. It can be easily connected to Europe through the Marmara undersea railway tunnel. The successful operation can catch the attention of the regional countries to join the project. 

Q: How can the project change the political equation in the region?

A: The project as I said earlier is quite significant to the region in general and the members in particular in the success and changing the political equation in the region is yet to be decided by time. The sanctions Iran is facing can be a hurdle to the success of the project. However, as the Biden administration wants to normalize its relations with Iran and accommodate the Iran nuclear issue in the best possible way can enhance the chances of its success that could lead to changing Iran’s economic complexities. 

Q: How do you see Iran’s position in the Chinese project of “One Belt One Road (OBOR)”?

A: Iran is among the countries involved in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The enhancement and success of the BRI can have two-fold results for Iran: negative as well as positive. In a positive sense, it will provide Iran a chance to revive its historical role in the ancient Silk Road through this project and will boost its trade easily with the outer world. However, its success has the potential to provide for a demerit to Iran: China will enhance its political influence in the region and Iran that can provide for competition between Tehran and Beijing. Thus, in addition to challenges, hope and fear will go parallel with Iran’s active participation in the project. 

Q: What challenges may jeopardize the launch of this project?

A: BRI may have great potential not only for China but for the regional countries as well. However, there is debate on how China kept this plan secret the stage of planning and the benefits of BRI, which is supposed to be for China mostly. Besides, the BRI is more likely to serve the Chinese economic interests while ignoring the interests of other countries, communities, and companies. Thus, the most important issue for China in the next step is to conduct a better analysis of the interests of various stakeholders, including itself. 

Q: Which sides (regional or global) may compete Iran-China-Pakistan rapprochement?

A: There are several areas of cooperation between Pakistan, Iran, and China. However, some challenges that exist are more linked to their individual security and politico-economic interests. In the post-U.S. withdrawal scenario, China-Pakistan-Iran interests are converging vis-a-vis Afghanistan and would like to play their active role to minimize the role of any adversary to the large possible extent. The U.S. won’t want this partnership to be strengthened as it can threaten or at least challenge the U.S. interests in the region. Also, China’s recent strategic partnership deal with Iran is alarming for Delhi.  The deal, if implemented, would have a great adverse impact not only on India’s grand strategy in Iran, but could also further undermine India's multi-dimensional, balancing act foreign policy in South Asia, Central Asia, and indeed in the (Persian) Gulf region. Indian policymakers must be worried that the massive China-Iran deal could give China formidable clout and multi-dimensional long-term influence over Iran. Thus, the project will outshine the Indian investment in Chabahar. 

Q: Do you think that Pakistan is serious to form a new partnership with Iran and China?

A: Pakistan has a close partnership and friendship with China for a long. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has added a new strategic dimension to the China-Pakistan relationship where there is less possibility for any adversary in the future to hamper this relationship. Whenever the gap enlarges between Islamabad and Washington, Pakistan gets close to its natural ally: China. On the other hand, Pakistan’s relations with Iran have improved to large extent since a year. Iran is a crucial player in the Middle East (West Asia) due to its strategic and security influence in addition to its natural resources, historical and cultural linkages. China’s rise, economic linkages, Belt and Road Initiative, its permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council place it in the line of world powers. Thus, for Pakistan, if this triangle was properly made, it will surely attain a prominent stature in the global arena.  


 


 

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