Sunday, December 16, 2018 | 11:44 PM

‘Tehran won't allow India to use Chabahar port against Pakistan’

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pakistan minister’s presence at Chabahar port inauguration indicates a significant shift in ties with Iran: Report
The participation of a Pakistani minister at the inauguration of the first phase of Iran’s Chabahar port - even though the country is not part of the project - represents a “significant shift” in the two neighbours’ ties, a media report said on Monday.

“As Iranian President Hassan Rowhani inaugurated the first phase of the Chabahar port on December 3, 2017, Pakistan’s minister for ports and shipping Hasil Khan Bizenjo was standing next to him. Days before Iran started preparations for the inauguration ceremony, it invited Pakistan to send a ministerial-level delegation for the event. Tehran followed up with not only the formal invitation but used all available diplomatic channels to make sure that the Pakistani delegation attends the ceremony,” Karachi-based daily English language newspaper The Express Tribune reported.
“This was no coincidence, as Hasil Khan Bizenjo was asked to stand next to Rowhani in a carefully choreographed move,” the report said regarding the minister’s presence on the occasion despite the fact that Pakistan is not part of the project.

“The objective behind this move was clear - Iran wanted to send a message that it would not allow India or any other country to use Chabahar against Pakistan,” a senior Iranian diplomat reportedly told the daily on condition of anonymity.

Such a firsthand account of close cooperation between Pakistan and Iran is unusual and represents a significant shift in the two neighbours’ ties, which have often been marred by a trust deficit and mutual suspicion, the paper commented.

The turnaround is also important when seen alongside Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led counter-terrorism coalition, it said.

Iran, which is not part of the grouping, considers the initiative an attempt to further Saudi Arabia’s agenda in the region.

That is one of the reasons that Pakistan has been treading a careful path on the issue as it has the potential to undermine ties with Iran, the report said, adding despite any allusions to a gulf, Islamabad and Tehran have been moving closer to each other, and diplomats on either side feel that the two sides understand and appreciate each other’s perspective.
Pakistan, according to official sources, has assured Iran that Islamabad would not become part of an initiative that targets the Islamic Republic, the report further said.

Tehran, in return, has pledged that it would not allow any regional country, including India, to undermine Pakistan’s interests, it maintained.

Far from India’s portrayal of Chabahar Port, Iran does not see it as a rival to Gwadar Port, the paper remarked and said that after the inauguration of the first phase, Indian officials and commentators began presenting it as a major strategic victory to sidestep Pakistan.

But the Iranian diplomat, the paper observed, played down the India hype as ‘psychological warfare.’ According to the paper, the diplomat said the Iranian president has already mentioned that Chabahar and Gwadar ports would complement each other in the future and that a memorandum of understanding to this effect has already been signed.

This unprecedented bonhomie did not happen overnight but after months of rigorous efforts from both sides, the report said. The visit of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was the culmination of those efforts, it added.

“It was an excellent, excellent visit,” the paper quoted the diplomat as having said. The two sides developed a broader understanding of bilateral ties and key regional developments, it said.

The diplomat was further quoted by the daily as having said that military and intelligence cooperation have deepened greatly in the past few months as officials from the security establishments on either side of the border speak to each other more often, something that was not possible just a few years ago.