Moment of opportunity
President Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan should be the first of many such exchanges as Islamabad and Tehran set the tone for mutual ‘business’ after the latter emerges from international sanctions. Indeed, as the visiting president rightly pointed out, there is no limit to benefits that can come the way of both countries if they take advantage of this exchange. Iran, rich in oil and gas, can go a long way in solving our chronic energy problem. It is at the centre of our economic paralysis. Already the Iran-Pakistan pipeline window was lost because of the international environment. But now that the two countries are back at the table, they must make sure they do not let any outside influence interfere with the progress.
The start has been encouraging. One of the most telling sings was the two heads of states agreeing on increasing the number of crossings across the long borer. This will not only increase commerce and people-to-people exchange, but also encourage joint monitoring and security of border areas; something both countries can benefit from. The idea envisaging greater connectivity between Gwadar and Chabahar is also a winner. It should have been realised ages ago, like the pipeline and wider energy and trade cooperation, but for far too long we let political influences and great games dictate foreign as well as economic policy. As a result, we have to take the first baby steps now for projects that should have started delivering decades ago.
That, of course, is all the more reason that the new progress should be cherished and nurtured. Pakistan has not had the best history when it comes to getting along nicely with neighbours. Lately, though, there have been clear signs of policy revision; not just in Islamabad, but also in some of our neighbouring capitals. Hopefully a new pattern will strengthen in weeks and months to come, benefiting us not only politically and security wise, but also economically.