In the modern era of ever-evolving geopolitics, another triumvirate involving China, Iran, and Pakistan is unveiled with China at the helm yet again, somewhat similar to the last peace deal brokered between Iran and Saudi Arabia. June 7, 2023, proved pivotal for the region as an agreement for the trilateral cooperation between Pakistan, China, and Iran was signed in Beijing.
This agreement stands as a testament to a period of regional stability through counter-terrorism efforts as well as the promotion of mutual economic interests. The most obvious question in this regard is what are the personal motives of all the actors involved? Could this have been done before? Why is there the need for it and why is it happening now?
There is a need for in-depth analysis and to navigate through the intricacies step by step. The ‘war on terror characterizing the initial decades of the 2000s had Chinese officials preoccupied. The effects of it only dissipated recently with the U.S. withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. This left China relatively free to set its sights on other matters. The most recent negotiation between Iran and Saudi Arabia mediated by China also served to boost its confidence in diplomacy. This was especially because it was a sign of China’s departure from the side-lines of diplomacy and calling the shots in the region where its arch-rival U.S. took centre stage.
The success of BRI is also highly dependent upon the stability in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan region which shares a border with Baluchestan and Sistan and has been repeatedly subjected to militant insurgencies in the past.
Iran’s pursuit of a stronger partnership with Pakistan over the last three decades has faced setbacks, with unmet expectations and strained ties. This had its roots in religion as Pakistan had extremely close ties with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation and transactional ties with the U.S. – both countries Iran bears hostility towards. Apart from that, Pakistan was considered as a safe haven for extremist Sunni groups posing issues for a Shi’ite Iran.
The shifting dynamics in the region, such as Iran’s ties with India and Pakistan’s relationships with Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia and the United States, have shaped their interactions. It also serves Iran positively because of its impending entry into the nuclear bloc so it would definitely help Iran to be friends rather than foes with Pakistan. The emergence of a trilateral arrangement involving Iran, Pakistan, and China presents a promising avenue for enhanced collaboration.
Despite historical challenges, the potential benefits of this trilateral framework are considerable. Strengthened collaboration across multiple domains, including counterterrorism, economic integration, and energy cooperation, could lead to unprecedented advantages for all three nations. China’s mediating role adds an element of stability, enabling Iran and Pakistan to address bilateral concerns effectively and foster greater trade ties. The security situation in Balochistan could improve, boosting foreign investment opportunities in the strategically important Gwadar port.
In a region marked by complexities and historical tensions, the trilateral approach offers a fresh perspective. It provides an avenue for these nations to address shared challenges, build trust, and collectively forge a path toward stability and progress. As the three countries move forward together, they have an opportunity to reshape regional dynamics and reap the rewards of a truly collaborative effort.
Author: Ifra Mazher is an undergraduate student of QAU currently enrolled in B.S Defence and Strategic Studies. She is enthusiastic about international relations and politics and desires to develop a deeper understanding of regional security, defence and conflict resolution through research.