|Rapprochement between Iran and the West: Implications for South Asia|
A roundtable titled “Rapprochement between Iran and the West: Strategic Implications for South Asia” was held on June 6, 2016 with Rana Muhammad Athar Javed, a veteran on Iranian studies and Director General of the Pakistan House – a Denmark based independent think tank with presence in UK and Pakistan – as the main speaker and Ambassador (r) Khalid Mehmood, chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) in chair.
The session – attended by a select gathering of regional and security experts and researchers – mainly delineated on two issues: one, the current détente between Iran and the P5+1 post nuclear deal, also known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program; second, how an emboldened and more assertive Iran will reconfigure the political and security dynamics in South Asia.
Rana Athar Javed delved on three main topics: one, why Iran decided to have rapprochement with the West, especially the US, which required it to disassemble its nuclear program; second, the current implications of the way Iran has developed in the post-JCPOA period; and lastly, on how Iran can be engaged positively in terms of Pakistan’s foreign policy and international relations.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Mehmood gave his critique and an all rounded analyses on the topic of the roundtable. He said that it has been ten months since the deal has been ratified but its implementation which meant that Iran’s assets will be unfrozen and it will be free to export, looks far from happening. The prospects of US sanctions being lifted are becoming increasingly unlikely, especially more because the Republicans remain entrenched in the Congress. The Europeans, too, are having second thought about the deal which is evident from the concerns of the Iranians.
Coming to Iran’s relations with Pakistan, he explained that it is true that Pakistan could not take any bold steps about the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project but it did take some actions wherever it was possible. Moreover, during President Zardari’s tenure, Pakistan was rather over-committed to the deal although it was the height of the sanctions. We invited Iran to become part of the CPEC venture and Iran has reacted positively. From Gwadar to Nawabshah, the pipeline will be built which will become part of the CPEC. After that, only 80km pipeline from Gwadar to Iranian border will be left. Although we haven't done much, we have remained committed to the pipeline deal.
He further said on Balochistan we have been cooperating with Iran and trying to deliver on its expectations, for example, Pakistan handed over Jundallah’s leader who the Iranians later executed. Thus, it will be not be fair to say that Pakistan has not been very forthcoming.
In the end, an MoU was also signed for collaboration between IPS and Pakistan House.