Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Pakistan-Iran Relations in a Regional Context

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Pakistan-Iran Relations in a Regional Context

Article excerpt

Introduction

Before Iranian revolution, Pakistan and Iran had a number of common interests which strengthened their relationship. But after Iranian revolution, especially after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan both sides got differ but strived to keep good relations. In post 9/11, Iran also cultivated its strong relations with Pakistan rival India and Pakistan is skillfully maintaining its relations with Saudi Arabia. Whereas Pakistan and Iran had different threat perceptions, former take India as its enduring rival, while latter consider Pakistan's close ally Saudi Arabia as its competitor and rival. Besides that, Iran also perceives threat from Israel and US.

Pakistan and Iran have a good history of cordial relationship. Even, both countries also have difference of opinion on certain issues. Besides other factors, polarity is one of influencing relationship between two States. After the cold war, unipolarity affected the relationship between two states in one way or another. Now again, the rivalry between emerging powers, China and Russia with US is quite instrumental in realigning Pak-Iran relations.

Alignment is a broader term which deals with the expectations of the states concerned with the questions "who will defend whom?" or "who will support whom and who will resist whom to what extent and in what contingencies?" Expectations of assistance or opposition of states come from variety of factors which can be divided into three categories including, polarity, conflicts and common interests among states, and past interactions. Polarity deals whether international political structure is a bipolar or multipolar. Both had different implications for the alignment of the states. States tend to expect assistance from other states when their interests converge. It also expects opposition from other states with whom it had a conflict. Expectation will be weaker when both states will not share common objectives on the different issues. Expectation will be stronger when both states will have same policies on different issues of their concern. Common or conflicting interests combine with strength inequality to produce pattern of alignment. The alliance reinforced the preexisting alignment, by making it more precise (Snyder, 1991).

In bipolarity, alliance relations are determined structurally whereas in unipolarity structural constraints are either absent or diminished which provide super-power a greater freedom of actions as it has a much less need of cohesive alliances. It is inclined to states with strong ideological affinity (Walt, January 2009). At the same time, most states revived a set of regional subsystem in which states interact with each other. Majority of states are concerned with capabilities and intentions of their neighboring states (Friedberg, Winter 1993-94). States gave more importance to their regional interests because of their security which is closely linked with each other. Geographical proximity has a high impact over security dynamics among neighbors than among the states at greater distance (Waever & Buzan, 2003). In case of Iran and Pakistan, both sides have different threat perceptions but there is a room for both sides to converge their interests.

Historically Pakistan and Iran has had very good relations. Pakistan had no border dispute with Iran unlike with India and Afghanistan. In the beginning, both states faced local and regional threats. In May 1949, Iran became the first State to recognize Pakistan in the United Nations. Shah of Iran was the first foreign head of the State to visit Pakistan in May 1950. Throughout the 1950s, both sides developed closer relations with each other. In 1956 and 1957, both sides concluded cultural and air travel agreements. In 1958, both sides successfully demarcated their common border (Vatanka, 2015).

During that era, the US played an important role in bringing two sides closer. As both sides needed US military support to counter their regional threats and in return US needed strong partners to contain Soviet Union. …

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