Pakistan: Tehran’s diplomatic offensive to end isolation

Daily Times, Pakistan
Aug 8 2004

Tehran’s diplomatic offensive to end isolation

The Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, was in the trans-Caucasian
state of Azerbaijan two days ago, the first visit by an Iranian head
of state to Baku since 1993. The two sides have had strained
relations on a number of issues, not least access to oil in the
Caspian Sea. The Azeris are Shia Muslims and share the faith with
Iran but they are ethnic Turkic and are closer to Turkey on that
basis. As part of the Soviet Union until December 1991, they were the
most secular and westernised of all the Muslim states. They also have
a historic feud with Armenia, another Soviet republic which is now an
independent state. That dispute in the nineties spilled over into war
on the issue of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan was
defeated. Turkey could not do much on the side of the Azeris because
of its own agreement with Moscow to stay out of the area. At the
time, Iran and Turkey were also vying with each other for influence
in the Central Asian republics.

Tehran finds itself increasingly besieged by the Americans. Mr
Khatami’s Baku visit therefore appears to be the beginning of a
diplomatic offensive in the region to re-establish good relations
with Iran’s neighbours. Pakistan-Iran relations have also been
nose-diving since the first gulf war, the struggle in Afghanistan and
Iran’s growing fondness for India. Recently, Iran, finding itself
hemmed in by America and the European Union on the nuclear issue,
implicated Pakistan in the clandestine nuclear programme it is
running. That created a major embarrassment for Islamabad. Therefore
Pakistan has reason to be suspicious of Iran. Even so, given the
contiguity and historical ties, there is every reason for the two
countries to have good relations. However, the onus of taking the
initiative to that end lies with Iran, not least because Tehran has
involved India into this equation and is also embarked on a nuclear
programme, which is a source of worry for the world and embarrassment
for Pakistan.

An additional problem with Iran is the internal struggle there
between the hard-liners and the reformers, with most Iranians sick of
the hard-liners for refusing to open up and disappointed with the
reformers for being unable to deliver. It is difficult to figure out
who Pakistan should talk to. Also, if Iran is trying to reach out now
to end its isolation and keep America at bay on the nuclear question,
then Pakistan may not have much to give Tehran because the latter’s
nuclear capability is a cause of concern for Pakistan too. *

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress