Although this may sound like too obvious a statement to consider, the complex Iran – Pakistan relationship presents numerous significant global geopolitical implications.  These can be traced to the early stages of Pakistan’s inception, with Pakistani-Iranian relations undergoing several renaissances or diminutions via geopolitics influenced by dominion conflicts on transformative relationships alongside changes in all constituent parts. By analyzing its historical context, the major issues of conflict and cooperation, and a potential route for future diplomatic options, this study aims to clarify the subtleties of their bilateral relationship.

The roots of  the Pakistani-Iranian relationship can be traced  back to the time of immediate post-independence in 1947 when Iran was one of the countries that first recognized the independent states that emerged out of what was once the British Raj. During the Shahi era, Iran and Pakistan had very friendly relations because they were assisting each other in various ways. This was a time when the relationship between Iran and America was close in nature and resulted in a beneficial partnership amid the Cold War aspects. Evidence of the above is found in some instances, which gives an indication of how intense their path was right from its inception; this can be witnessed regarding Iran’s support for Pakistan during its’ wars with India in 1965 and 1971. Iranian support for Pakistan was not only symbolic but also it gave extensive material assistance during these wars. This stage phase accentuated virtually identical perception and strategic compatibility, which resulted mostly from both states allied with American interests against the Soviet regime.

For the relationship between Iran and Pakistan, another historic turning point was in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution. However, the toppling of the Shah and subsequent replacement by Imam Khomeini introduced an ideological component in Iran’s foreign policy. Iran, under such conditions, radically changed its regional footing and shifted from the pro-Western stance of the Shah to seeking to export its’ brand of revolutionary political Islam, which fundamentally altered its relationship with Pakistan. In the wake of the revolution, Iran and Pakistan’s relations slid into a state of complicity. The growing divergence of their international policies became apparent. Instead, Iran leaving the American sphere of influence was in direct contrast to Pakistan’s continued orientation toward the West, especially during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This era showed a slow transition from an alliance to a relationship that was cautious of connectivity and rivalry. It was Afghanistan that has shaped the Pakistan-Iran relationship, and it is worth noting that both countries have always had influence in Afghanistan, supporting various factions for their dissimilar strategic interests. The divergent routes of Iran and Pakistan in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, especially during the emergence of the Taliban, further complicated their relationship. As Pakistan favored the Pashtun and Sunni Taliban, Iran lent its support to the Northern Alliance, which was dominated by Persian-speaking Hazara factions.

The border area between Iran and Pakistan, which is part of the Balochistan region, has been a critical flashpoint for years. Over the years, both countries collaborated against Baloch separatist movements.

Nevertheless, post-revolution cooperation diminished as allegations were encountered of Iran hosting anti-Pakistan Baloch militants and providing shelter to figures like Indian national Kulbhushan Yadav. These moves have been seen as a direct attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and destabilizing the region, especially in relation to CPEC. Iran’s alleged backing for Pakistani Baloch militants is approached within the larger picture of its strategic goals. The success of CPEC, which aims to make Pakistan climb up the ladder of geopolitical significance, could negate Iran’s weighty Chabahar port. It has been suggested that Iran’s activity in Baluchistan is associated with a more general picture of counterbalancing the growing partnership between Pakistan and China.

The latest direct tension between the two countries as a result of reported Iranian attacks in Balochistan and Pakistani response at both diplomatic and military are evidence of the fact that their relations are very unstable. These events have resulted in grave issues regarding reciprocity and respect for sovereignty, leading to intervention from international actors such as China, Russia, Turkey, or the United Nations facilitating de-escalation. However, it was the diplomatic efforts of these external powers that helped to resolve this latest altercation between Iran and Pakistan. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the commitment toward resolving issues through negotiation is an indication that both parties need stability associated with their cooperation. Nevertheless, the fundamental conflicts and unaddressed problems indicate that achieving durable stability through lasting peace is still a difficult journey ahead of all.

The factors that will determine the future course of the relationship between Pakistan and Iran include geopolitical changes at the national level, domestic politics, and foreign powers. Whereas Pakistan tries to walk a tightrope between its age-old alliance with Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and the Iranian relationship will continue to be a difficult diplomatic battle. By complicating the relationship of these relations, Pakistan’s strategic partnership with China and alignment between Iran and Russia (and to some extent India) increases. This intricate web of alliances requires Iran and Pakistan to adopt a subtle foreign policy.

The Balochistan problem is inter-state in nature, thus necessitating a joint effort by both countries to combat the threat of secession and terrorism.

In the past, joint actions against Baloch separatists showed the possibilities of cooperation. Rejuvenating, including such common efforts, perhaps through the third-party mediation of China, might be a valuable step towards regional stability.

The aspect of economic cooperation, especially in relations to regional connectivity and development programs such as CPEC and Chabahar is an aspect that presents Pakistan with the chance for alignment on its interest quota between it and Iran. Such collaborative efforts may help in taming the competing nature and village a spirit of economic success which could weaken political strains. The current following and thawing the situation, supported by global players just emphasize how well act diplomacy in bilateral conflicts. Consistent diplomatic engagements by friendly nations and the intervention of international organizations such as United Nations can offer a necessary avenue for dialogue which will be constructive, hence conflict resolving.

Lastly, the relationship between Pakistan and Iran forms a complicated landscape of historical bonds, ideological transformations, as well strategic considerations. As they progress, both countries have to deal with immense rubbles of these complex challenges posed by internal and external forces successively. Construction, engagement is based on the reality of common objectives mutually acceptable state sovereignty and economic opportunities that can be useful for regional stability. In this context, with a mixture of bilateral arrangements and international facilitation, both Pakistan and Iran can move towards improvement in their relationship leading to harmonization that would not only affect the two states but also contribute constructively to other dynamics connecting Middle Eastern position vis-à-vis South Asian geopolitics.

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