- Could have waited
PM Imran Khan has left on a two-day visit to Iran. This is his first official visit to the country since becoming Prime Minister and given Iran’s strategic importance in the region it is an important one. Relations with neighbouring Iran have seen their fair share of ups and downs over the years owing to problems both old and new. Iran has never minced its words while expressing its reservations over Pakistan’s closeness to Saudi Arabia and the recent visit by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman was not well-received either. Then there is the longstanding issue of cross-border terrorism with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to counter militants on its soil. To top it all off, our diplomacy in such matters from both sides has not always been up to the mark and has been rather reckless at times, with ambassadors and envoys called back or dismissed by either country in the past. Recently there has been a wave of terrorism is Balochistan with the latest attack being carried out on the Makran Coastal Highway where 14 passengers were offloaded from a bus by up to 20 armed men and were shot dead. 11 of the victims belonged to the Pakistani Navy. Our Foreign Office has since lodged a serious complaint with Iran for its inaction against the group behind the killings, claiming that they came from across the Pak-Iran border and returned to the same area after the attack. That the attack took place just a few days before the PM’s visit is intriguing.
Considering the sensitivity of the issue, the seriousness of the incident and the fact that the PM was due to visit Iran in a few days, it would have been better to wait and make the complaint in person. Both countries are currently facing tough economic conditions with US sanctions dealing a crushing blow to Iran’s exports and Pakistan facing a record high current account deficit. Both countries can help each other only if foreign policy is handled in a more nuanced and subtle manner.