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How Raisi's Untimely Death Could Redefine Iranian-Pakistani Relations

© Photo : Uzbekistan's President Press Office via APIran's President Ebrahim Raisi
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi - Sputnik India, 1920, 21.05.2024
The sudden death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi is ushering in a period of potential recalibration in Iranian-Pakistani relations. With Iran now facing a leadership vacuum, there are opportunities and challenges for both nations as they navigate these uncharted waters.
President Ebrahim Raisi, who was expected to maintain Iran's long-term foreign policy, leaves a significant power vacuum in the country's political landscape, creating uncertainty about its future direction.
Sputnik India reached out to several political observers to discuss how Raisi's death will impact Iran-Pakistan relations and in what ways could the regional dynamics change in the near future.

"In the coming days, Iran's leadership will be focused on maintaining stability and continuity. The Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), along with other key political and military figures, will likely play a critical role in steering the nation through this period of upheaval. The appointment of a new president will be a priority, but the process may be fraught with internal power struggles and factionalism," the former Unit Head of Engro Corporation and political analyst, Dr. Shahid Rashid, said.

Pakistan has historically maintained close ties with Saudi Arabia and the United States, both of whom are rivals to Iran. However, Pakistan has increasingly sought to balance its relations with these powers while engaging more with China, particularly through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Iran, on the other hand, has strengthened its strategic partnership with China, signing a comprehensive 25-year cooperation agreement in 2021. This alignment with China offers common ground for Iran and Pakistan to enhance their trilateral cooperation, particularly in infrastructure development and trade.

"The strategic outlook of Iran recently has been to enhance relations with countries like India, China, Russia, and Pakistan. Hence, I feel that this strategy will remain in place despite the uncertainty in Iran for the next several weeks, until the new president is elected," a former high-ranking diplomat in Pakistan's Foreign Service, Khalid Mahmood, told Sputnik India.

Mahmood mentioned, the new president will "most definitely have an effect on the strategy".

Potential Shifts in Iran-Pakistan Relations

Looking at how the relations between Iran and Pakistan will be affected, Dr. Rashid said that one of the most immediate areas where Tehran and Islamabad can find common ground is economic cooperation. Enhancing bilateral trade in agriculture, textiles, technology and other sectors can improve economic ties and help both nations bolster their economies and reduce dependency on Western markets.
Dr. Rashid added that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is a key project that could see renewed focus if the new Iranian leadership decides to prioritize economic development.
Security concerns, particularly along the shared border, have been a perennial issue in Iran-Pakistan relations, Scotland based political analyst and writer, Parvez Salik told Sputnik India.

"The leadership vacuum in Iran might lead to temporary disruptions in coordinated security efforts, but it also presents an opportunity for Pakistan to engage with Iran's new leadership on fresh terms," Salik explained.

The writer claimed Pakistan’s proactive engagement with Iran during this transitional period could set a positive tone for future cooperation.

Regional Dynamics and Alliances

While there are numerous opportunities for enhanced cooperation, several disputes remain, the most significant of which is the impact of US sanctions on Iran, which complicates economic engagements between Iran and Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan will need to navigate these sanctions carefully to avoid repercussions, Dr. Rashid explained.

Despite the political disagreements that exist between Iran and Pakistan, the cultural ties between their people are profound and deeply rooted in centuries of interaction. These ties have been shaped by trade relationships, migration patterns, and the spread of Islam.
"The new Iranian leadership, once established, might seek to engage more deeply with Pakistan on religious and cultural fronts, promoting people-to-people contacts and educational exchanges," Rashid concluded.
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