Pakistan borders with Iran at its western flank and the two countries’ relationship is characterized by common historical, linguistic, literary, cultural affinities and trade link ages. Both the neighboring lands are not only bound together because of their geographical proximity, but the deeper basis of relationship is
provided by the shared values and their common belief in the religion of Islam. The commonality was further calcified with the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state following the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. Iran was the first country to extend official recognition to the new State and Pakistan was the first country that recognized the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979. Since then, Iran has continued to give full, unconditional moral and material support to Pakistan in its hours of need; which has been reciprocated by Pakistan as well.
Historically, the people in Persia and the Indus Valley have been bound together since time immemorial. The contemporary States of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran share a 909-km-long border. Both the countries have supported each other, economically, militarily and politically in good and bad time. As time passed, Pakistan-Iran relations progressed well in the 1950s and 1960s, but watershed changes; first the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, followed by the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan; put a strain on the bilateral relationship. Broadly, Pakistan-Iran relations can be categorized into two eras, i.e., pre and post 1979. In the pre-1979 phase, both the States maintained a pro-U.S. policy and were allies in the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Together with Turkey, they also constituted the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) organisation. In the post-1979 phase, Iran’s new regime changed its foreign policy and adopted an anti-U.S. stance, but Pakistan tried to maintain good relation with both the USA and Iran.
The 1990s was a rough patch in the bilateral relations as the rise of Taliban which, in spite of our two countries’ common goal of promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, pitted Pakistan and Iran on opposite sides. In the mid-1990’s, Pakistan supported the Taliban in Afghanistan’s, consisted on majority Pashton elements, whereas the Northern alliance comprising majority non-Pashton population of Afghanistan was supported by Iran. The situation was further aggravated because, apart from Iran, India and Russia supporting the Northern Alliance. These soured relations worsened with sectarian violence by the Taliban phenomenon. These years saw a spike in sectarian violence that plunged the Iran-Pakistan relationship to its lowest point ever. However, the present situation differs in some way from the mid 1990’s. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent US led coalition in Afghanistan changed the priorities of the both countries. Whereas Pakistan extended its support to the U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, Iran remained neutral.Presently, Iran seems to have gained more importance in the geopolitical and strategic priorities of the U.S and Western powers than earlier. This is evident in that a few years ago, the U.S. was ready to bomb nuclear sites in Iran, and today it is engaging the country. Other Western countries and major Asian countries are also keen to promote their relations with Iran. But, ironically, Pakistan and Iran’s relations have not been as conducive as they should have been. Beyond the geopolitical to-and-fro and great games, both countries share some other issues such as, the use of Iranian and Pakistani territory for illicit drug trade, human trafficking, weapon smuggling and militancy. Moreover, both the countries have porous borders with Afghanistan which makes it difficult to have effective control over the borders.