Columns In Urdu Daily Examine Iranian President’s Visit To Pakistan: ‘America Adopted A Threatening Stance [Against Pakistan] In The Event That Trade Relations With Iran’ Are Established

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Pakistan for three days starting April 22, 2024. The trip came after the relations between Iran and Pakistan worsened following Iran’s missile and drone attacks on Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, allegedly targeting terror hideouts, on January 16, 2024. Two days later, Pakistan launched retaliatory strikes on Iran.

Ebrahim Raisi was given a grand welcome in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi. Agreements were signed to boost bilateral trade to $10 billion. A few days before the trip began, the U.S. Department of State imposed sanctions on a Belarusian company and three Chinese companies engaged in providing supplies to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program. The American sanctions were seen by Pakistani analysts as a threat to Pakistan – specifically, warning Pakistan not to get too close to Iran.[1]

“While it is important that proliferation does not take place, it is equally important to give concrete evidence of such serious allegations before imposing sanctions on international entities. Some have pointed to the timing of the State Department’s announcement, which comes just before an important visit of Iranian President Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi,” Pakistan’s mass-circulation Urdu newspaper, Roznama Jang, wrote.[2]

Following are translated excerpts from articles written by two Pakistani columnists – Pir Farooq Baha-ul-Haq Shah and Mirza Ishtiaq Baig – who assess the impact of the Iranian president’s three-day visit to Pakistan.

Following are excerpts from Pir Farooq Baha-ul-Haq Shah’s article titled: “Iranian President’s Trip To Pakistan.”[3]

“The Depth Of Pak-Iran Relations Can Be Estimated From The Fact That In 1948, Iran Was The First Country To Recognize Pakistan, And After The Iranian Revolution Of 1979, Pakistan Was The First Country To Recognize The Khomeini Regime”

“Today (Tuesday) is the second day of the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s visit to Pakistan. Mr. Ibrahim Raisi is visiting Pakistan at a time when the conflict in the Middle East is at its peak. Iran and Israel are confronting each other openly and have launched rocket attacks on each other’s installations, and no country can be seen to be siding clearly with Iran.

“The Pakistan-Iran relationship has its own history, and against this historical backdrop, the visit of the Iranian President holds great significance. It marks the first visit to Pakistan by any foreign head of state after the formation of the new government following the general elections [February 8, 2024]. On the other hand, after the mutual clash of Iran and Israel, the Iranian president is also on his first foreign visit, which the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself is calling very important.

“The depth of Pak-Iran relations can be measured from the fact that in 1948, Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan, and after the Iranian revolution of 1979, Pakistan was the first country to recognize the Khomeini regime. Not a single soldier was deployed on the 1,000-kilometer border between Pakistan and Iran until 2013. Later, checkpoints were established by mutual consent. The first prime minister of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan, went to Iran on an official visit in 1949, while the Shah of Iran took his first official trip to Pakistan in 1950.

“Iran stood shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in the wars of 1965 and 1971 [against India]. Before the Iranian Revolution, Pakistan and Iran were part of the same global camp, but after the Iranian Revolution, fundamental changes occurred in regional politics. Iran joined the anti-Western camp, while its relations with the Arab world began to be seen in the context of the historical rivalry between Arabs and non-Arabs [Persians]. After the Iranian Revolution, sectarianism was promoted in Pakistan, and some Middle Eastern countries also established their proxies in Pakistan.

“When various sanctions were imposed on Iran by the United States and international organizations, in the context of Iran’s nuclear program, it was Pakistan that allowed it to use its channel for diplomacy with the United States. In 2014, the then-Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Jalil Abbas Jilani, said, in an informal conversation, that we have been doing diplomacy in place of Iran in the U.S. for more than three decades. Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri had said in his interview that the message from Iran to the then-American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was conveyed through a Pakistani channel. Iran had said in the message that it was desirous of continuing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.”

“The Beginning Of Strained Relations Between Pakistan And Iran Was Observed When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Visited Iran In May 2016, And A Trilateral $550 Million Fund Was Established Between India, Iran, And Afghanistan To Develop The Chabahar Port Of Iran”

“In March 2013, the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project started. Iran has completed the construction of a 900-kilometer pipeline, but this pipeline has only reached Nawab Shah in Pakistan. In view of the fear of sanctions from the United Nations, no financial institution is ready to invest in this project, nor is any construction company willing to work on this project, while agencies that sell necessary equipment are also not willing to provide supplies for the project.

“The beginning of strained relations between Pakistan and Iran was observed when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran in May 2016, and a trilateral $550 million fund was established between India, Iran, and Afghanistan to develop the Chabahar port of Iran. After the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan [Jadhav] from the Iranian border, and the information obtained from his network, these relations deteriorated further. At the beginning of the current year [2024], following border violations by Iranian forces and Pakistan’s retaliatory actions, diplomatic relations were severed.

“The visit of the Iranian President to Pakistan is an attempt to revive the previous warmth in relations, and to mitigate the impact of its international isolation.

“On the other hand, there has been a sudden and pleasant increase in diplomatic activity from the Saudi Arabian side with Pakistan. The visit of Prime Minister [Shehbaz Sharif] to Saudi Arabia, the visit of Saudi investors to Pakistan, the successive visits of the Saudi foreign minister and top military officials have given the impression that despite the visit of the Iranian president, they consider Pakistan their top priority.

“Meanwhile, the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan is also expected next month [in May 2024]. Due to the significance of the Holy Places [Mecca and Medina], and as the source of livelihood for millions of Pakistanis, Saudi Arabia is fundamentally important to Pakistan’s foreign policy. The billions of dollars invested by Saudi Arabia in Pakistan’s economy are a fundamental part of Pakistan’s trade.

“Despite high-level visits from Iran, the possibility of any major breakthrough is not foreseen. However, Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is expected to strengthen further. If half of the agreements signed between the two countries are implemented, it will provide a boost to the Pakistani economy and increase employment opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East.”

Following are excerpts from Mirza Ishtiaq Baig’s article titled, “Iranian President’s Trip To Pakistan And American Concerns”:[4]

“During The Iranian President’s Trip, The Two Countries Signed Important Pacts And Memoranda Of Understanding (MoUs) And Agreed To Raise Bilateral Trade To $10 Billion”

“In the beginning of the current year, due to Iran’s missile and drone attacks on Pakistani soil [on January 16, 2024], and in response to Pakistan’s attack [on January 18], tensions between the two countries had risen to the peak. And it was being thought at the time that the relations between Pakistan and Iran will never turn toward betterment.

“In such a situation, Indians were beating the drums of joy that the borders of one more neighboring country, Iran, have become unsafe for Pakistan. However, the joys of the enemy turned to sorrow when Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi arrived on a three-day trip of Pakistan recently, and received a grand welcome. In this way, the Iranian president’s trip to Pakistan, and the revival and enthusiasm in the relationship between the two countries, caused great sadness to the Modi government.

“The Iranian president came to Pakistan at a time when the Israeli conflict was at its peak, and clouds of war were hovering over the region. In such a situation, the entire world’s attention was focused on his trip to Pakistan and his visit was compared with the February 2022 visit of former Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russia, when the Russia-Ukraine conflict was at the peak.

“The significance of the Iranian president’s trip can be understood from the fact that during his trip, he met with President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Senate chairman Yousuf Raza Gilani, Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, and Army chief General Asim Munir. After that, he also visited Lahore and Karachi where he paid his respects to the mausoleum of the Quaid-e-Azam [M. A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan] and to the mausoleum of Mohammad Iqbal [the Islamist national poet of Pakistan], along with the provincial governors and chief ministers.

“During the Iranian president’s trip, the two countries signed important pacts and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), and agreed to raise their bilateral trade to $10 billion. Even before the ink had dried on this agreement, America, in a threatening manner and expressing its concerns over these trade pacts with Iran, made Pakistan aware of the likely danger of the imposition of sanctions, and said that ‘Pakistan should remember that America is the biggest market for Pakistani exports.’ The purpose of the American threat was to make Pakistan aware that Pakistan should desist from trade relations with Iran.”

“We Should Not Succumb To The American Threat, And Should Ensure The [Completion Of] The Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline Project”

“America has had reservations from day one over the gas pipeline project between Pakistan and Iran. Bear in mind that during the rule of the Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan had signed the gas pipeline project with Iran, in 2010. Under the project, out of a pipeline of 1,931 kilometers, a stretch of 1,150 kilometers was to be built in Iran, and 781 kilometers was to be laid in Pakistan. Completion was scheduled for January 2015.

“Under the pact, Iran completed a 900-kilometer pipeline on its side, but, on the other hand, Pakistan has until now made no progress. The biggest obstacle in the path of Pakistan are the American economic sanctions imposed on Iran. From time to time, Iran has been threatening to take Pakistan to the international court in order to extract a fine of $18 billion. There is information that during the trip of the Iranian president to Pakistan, it was stressed that this issue should be resolved through tact and understanding. Iran has been made aware of our helplessness.

“There is no dispute that to keep Iran far from Indian influence and reach, Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations are in the best interests of Pakistan. One of these reasons is the Iranian port of Chabahar – situated at a distance of 150 kilometers from [Pakistan’s] Gwadar port – which is eyed by India, and it has made an offer of investments worth billions of dollars in this port to Iran.

“Since Afghanistan is a land-locked country with no port, and all of Afghanistan’s foreign exports flow through Pakistani ports, it is a nefarious goal of India to expand the Iranian port at Chabahar, and dominate it, and connect it over land to Afghanistan. In this way, India will gain access to Afghanistan by a land route [by ship from India to the Chabahar port and onward by road and train through Iran and Afghanistan to Central Asia]. This will add to Pakistan’s difficulties.

“After the Iranian president’s trip to Pakistan, America’s behavior makes it clear that it has concerns over Pakistan-Iran relations; these relations are needles in its eyes. Therefore, America assumed a threatening stance [against Pakistan] in the event that trade relations with Iran [are established]. Yet, despite American economic sanctions on Iran, the countries of China, India, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea are importing petroleum products from Iran. Thus, American threats to Pakistan over trade relations with Iran are beyond comprehension.

“However, we should not succumb to the American threat, and should ensure the [completion of] the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project and the import of cheap petrol from Iran, which can play an important role in fulfilling the energy needs of Pakistan, and make its economy strong.”

[1] MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 11300, Editorials In Pakistani Dailies Denounce U.S. Sanctions On Belarusian And Chinese Firms Linked To Pakistan’s Ballistic Missile Program: ‘Another Major Demonstration Of America’s Imperialist Behavior’; U.S. Is ‘Painting Pakistan As An Underhand Producer Of Missiles’; ‘As For The West, There Are Indeed Double Standards And Hypocrisy’, April 29, 2024.

[2] MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 11300, Editorials In Pakistani Dailies Denounce U.S. Sanctions On Belarusian And Chinese Firms Linked To Pakistan’s Ballistic Missile Program: ‘Another Major Demonstration Of America’s Imperialist Behavior’; U.S. Is ‘Painting Pakistan As An Underhand Producer Of Missiles’; ‘As For The West, There Are Indeed Double Standards And Hypocrisy’, April 29, 2024.

[3] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), April 23, 2024.

[4] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), May 1, 2024.