09 Nov 2017/Thursday

Abruptly planned visit of Pak COAS Gen Bajwa to Tehran has raised speculations about the actual motive behind such move. What has been reported in Pak News Papers that, heading a high-ranking military delegation, Gen Bajwa has travelled to Tehran at the invitation of Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri to discuss improving the level of defence and security, as well as border security and other issues.

What is suspicious about the visit, is manner it has been covered. The arrival of the Pak COAS in Tehran was announced by military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor through a tweet. No formal statement was, however, issued revealing the caution relating to visit, that is seen by many as a major development in bilateral relations.

The DG ISPR  tweeted

“COAS arrived Tehran, Iran on official visit. Scheduled to meet Iranian civilian and military leadership,”.

What may have prompted this visit is still shrouded in the veil of speculations. Many reasons can be assigned to this.

Iran-Pakistan border clashes linked are a thing of past. Tehran, always has been worried about presence of terrorist groups along the Pak-Iran border that have been targeting Iranian border forces.

Pakistan’s acceptance to head and participate in the coalition of Islamic Nations sponsored by Saudi Arabia had irked Iran to no extent, which it sees as targeted against its own interests. Pakistan manged to salvage the situation with Iran, by being vague about its direct or indirect role.

This sudden move for improvement in ties may also have been necessitated by evolving regional dynamics particularly the emergence of an Islamic State as a major security threat besides sudden US declaration for an open-ended stay in Afghanistan, which both sides see as detrimental for their interests in the region. Anti-corruption developments in Saudi Arabia may have prompted the Pak Army to seize the opportunity to forge its ties with Iran, as Saudis will be busy sorting out their internal problems.

 Islamabad has reservations about Tehran’s involvement in disputes in Arab world. Iran on the other hand suspiciously looks at Pakistan’s close ties with Arab monarchies. Analysts believe the start of a military dialogue between Pakistan and Iran would grant credibility to Pakistan’s policy of neutrality in the Middle East/Gulf even if they aren’t immediately able to make major strides towards better relations.

Whatever may be released in media about the visit later on, but significance of one development in this region cannot be ruled out at present. Indian shipment of wheat to Afghanistan, though Chabahar Port has once again brought India-Iran relations in focus. Key concern of Islamabad vis-à-vis Tehran has always been the growing Indian influence on Iran, which has so far predominantly been on the economic and trade side. There have been suspicions about India using Iranian soil for espionage in Pakistan. Pakistan does not forget to mention Kulbhushan Jadhav to prove its point. Chabahar development has definitely rattled nervous Pakistan, with growing Indian presence on its neighbours, Iran and Afghanistan. With India’ increased trade relations with Iran and Afghanistan in coming future, Pakistan should definitely be a worried nation. Pak Army which is de-facto a Foreign Ministry, seems to have taken upon itself a pre-emptive action to salvage the situation by engaging Tehran.