The Center for International Strategic Studies organized a round-table discussion on Wednesday, the 8th of November, 2017 titled “The Iranian Perspective on Iran-Pakistan Relations and Regional Security” at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. The speaker for the occasion was Dr. Saadullah Zarei, an Iranian scholar from the think tank Andisheh-Sazan-e-Noor Institute for Strategic Studies based in Tehran. The round-table was chaired by Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI) and former Ambassador of Pakistan to Iran with an opening address from Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Executive Director CISS.
Ambassador Naqvi in his opening remarks said that Iran and Pakistan have a history of cordial relations which goes back to Pakistan’s inception; Iran was the first country to recognize the Pakistan’s statehood in 1947 and Iran-Pakistan have been friendly as they have never had any outstanding disputes, and both view foreign involvement in the region with suspicion, a recurring feature that courses through the bilateral relations. He asserted that Iran and Pakistan have enormous potential for cooperation on many fronts and that the two countries could exploit the fruit bearing aspects of their relationship to the maximum, making the best of their friendly relations. Principally, full potential of trade and economic relations remain underexplored, which is a major interest of both. In addition, the two countries need to develop their communication links of road, rail and air, to promote greater interaction and resultant economic activity.
In his remarks, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood highlighted the positive areas of the Iran-Pakistan relationship and asserted that there was plenty of room for cooperation. He also remarked that when the chips are down, Iran has always stood by Pakistan and vice versa. For instance, Iran has always taken a categorical position supporting the Kashmir cause.
Dr. Saadullah Zarei began his talk by giving a context of the meaning of security, saying that the meaning of the word had changed in the past 30 years. He said that in the contemporary era, the meaning of security is taken in the context of inter-state cooperation. He classified ways to achieve security in four different categories: first, security as a product of cooperation with other countries. Second, security constitutes resources management on the domestic level. Third, security means the successful management of non-state actors that have attained importance and leverage in recent years and can pose security threats for a country. And lastly, being secure as a state includes the effective management of rivals, especially through conciliation. As an example, Dr. Zarei said that Iran’s nuclear experience with the West taught Tehran that it must develop an internal consensus and reach a middle ground with the Western world.
Dr. Zarei discussed Afghanistan as a prospective area of cooperation between Iran and Pakistan. He said that Iranians and Pakistanis both want to support infrastructure projects in Afghanistan to create an environment conducive to stability. He said that a great advantage in this regard is that important actors such as Turkey and Russia are also interested in playing a constructive role in Afghanistan. He asserted that cooperation on the regional level has many advantages and no drawbacks.