The South Asian region is witnessing a change in the traditional strategic blocks in contemporary times. New alliances are emerging while existing ones are going through a complete reshape. The changing dynamics of Indian relations with the US and Iran are the most lucid manifestation of this reshaping of regional politics.
A detailed analysis of India’s calculus of its relations with Iran and recently growing ties with the US clearly points towards the fact that thedynamics have tilted in India’sfavourat the cost of Iranian interests.
Over the years India-Iran relations were perceived as something inspired by mutual interests based on the following factors:
1. Energy and economy
2. Strategic interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan
3. Historical ties
Despite all the bravado of bilateralism and convergence of strategic interests, India abandoned Iran as an ally soon after the US invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was toppled. Since then, India-Iran relations have become nothing more than a sordid boon for Iran, formulatedby the cunning Indian foreign policy makers, leaving Iran in the lurch regarding all the above-mentioned factors. It is interesting to observe how the Indian aspirations to become a global player, after becoming a strategic ally of the US, has affected India-Iran relations on every axis, offering new opportunities to Islamabad to expand its diplomatic clout in Tehran in order to wage a combined political, economic and strategic alliance for regional stability.
Let us see how the Indo-Iran relations have evolved to their current status.
1. Energy and Economic Ties:
For years, India had been pursuing a policy of warming up to Iran in order to secure the energy needs of its growing population. The Indo-Iranian relations, based on the notion of bilateral interests in the field of energy and economy since the last few years, have disintegrated into distrust due to many reasons.
The focus on the economic aspects of the energy ties has suffered many jolts due to inconsistent Indian sincerity as well as India’s complete u-turn on many issues vis-à-vis Iran,especially its nuclear program.
The much hyped energy deals, including importing LNG and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, between India and Iran have hit major obstacles due to India cozying up with the US after the Indo-US nuclear deal. So detaching herself from Iran became an intrinsic imperative for India. Hence India opted to walk away from this trilateral deal and eventually the deal was signed by Pakistan and Iran only.
In June 2005, India concluded an agreement with Iran for the supply of five million tons of LNG annually for a 25-year period in order to secure its energy supplies and expressed its willingness to increase the import by another 2.5 million tons per year.
Initially, Iran had agreed to supply the LNG at $3.215 per million British thermal units (mBtu). However, due to the rising price of oil, Iran has been demanding a higher price while India is unwilling to do so.
While the snag-hit LNG deal is blamed on the Iranian demand for higher price, the Indian u-turn on the 2,700-kilometer-long Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline is due to the opposition from the US.Washington has succeeded in forcing India to dump the pipeline linking it to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, which was formally concluded in March 2006.In May 2006, seven US Congressmen warned India against going ahead with the pipeline project at the cost of the nuclear deal and the overall Indo-US relations.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the US issued a blunt warning:
“India's pursuit of closer relations with Iran appears to be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the July 18th, 2005 announcement by you and President Bush, of the establishment of a ‘global partnership’ between our two countries. It also is contrary to the pledge that India ‘would play a leading role in international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons’.”
Divergence of Indo-Iran Energy Interests:
The Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005, opened many other avenues for importing nuclear and fuelenergy for India, therefore its dependence on Iran has decreased considerably now. Apart from this, many other factors played a decisive role in ceasing India from becoming a major Iranian energy market, like the UN sanctions on Iran and the recent pledge by President Obama to support India for a permanent seat in UNSC.
Many other countries are offering similar nuclear deals to India which will further decrease any future dependence on Iran. Already nearly 45 percent of India's oil imports come from the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, whereas only almost 16 percent of Indian oil supply comes from Iran. This factor in itself indicates that India would be striving for closer ties with the Gulf countries rather than damaging its recently established strategic ties with the US, by siding with Iran even for energy.
India also endorsed the Arab call for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, a proposal that used to be directed at Israel but which is increasingly focused on Iran.
Indian oil imports from various countries. Saudi Arabia being the leading exporter
Keeping in mind the growing isolation of Iran by America, India has already started warming up to Saudi Arabia in order to protect its energy interests, besides guarding its economic interests as over 3.5 million Indian citizens work in that region.
This manifestation ofIndian energy policy is visible by its joining hands with Saudi Arabia in a call for averting the Iranian nuclear program.The Riyadh declaration signed in January 2010 during the Indian Prime Minister Singh's visit to Saudi Arabia, asked Iran to "remove regional and international doubts about its nuclear weapons programme." It also endorses the fact that now India is completely in the US camp along with Saudi Arabia against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
As India had dragged its feet over the IPI pipeline but Iran and Pakistan had gone ahead with it, the US has succeeded in getting theTurkmen-Afghan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline signed.
IPI and TAPI Gas pipelines
The much-delayed TAPI pipeline project that envisages bringing Turkmen gas to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, was recently signed by the respective countries and has seen much to the interests of the US. Eventually, it will further sideline Iran as the energy exporter.
This is one of the many alternative markets for India to seek energy from, Turkmenistan is especially important for India vis-à-vis its access to the massive Central Asian energy reserves and for countering the expanding presence of China in Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan).
The US is mainly supporting this not only for countering the Iranian energy market, but also for consolidating its presence in Afghanistan thus keeping Iran out of the region even on trade levels.
If this plan succeeds without facing any set backs, it will also decrease the economic dependence of Afghanistan, as the TAPI pipeline would make it a transport hub connecting three strategically important areas namely: Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The pipeline is also going to earn it revenues (approx. $300 million per year as transit fee).The only real threat this project is faced with emerges from the security of the pipeline and its related infrastructure, particularly in Afghanistan and the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. To diminish this threat, the US is desperately trying to woo the Afghan Taliban to join the Kabul government but they remain committed to their own goal of forcing the withdrawal of US/NATO forces from Afghanistan; even in case of the US withdrawal, one must remember that the Taliban were not against the pipeline itself, which is going to hurt the Iranian energy exports to a considerable extent.
This scenario is clearly a strategic set back for Iran, with India finding new partners to reach Central Asia with the Us backing and having a sound footing in Afghanistan where it will no longer need Iran. Some political pundits suggest that the Indian influence in Afghanistan is about to terminate as the US has announced its withdrawal from the country, but this announcement remains elusive as different elements from different power centers in the US are interpreting the announcement as ‘conflicting’, making the whole withdrawal issue more complex and vague.
Sanctions and Other Issues:
Apart from the gas pipelines, other energy projects by India in Iran are also turning unfeasible due to the imposition of US sanctions as well as certain geographical issues.
· A $5.5 billion offshore block discovered by Indian oil companies.
· A $10 billion agreement to develop parts of the South Pars gas field in Iran.
However, these are also not adding much to the Iranian economy since the Indian companies cannot invest beyond a certain amount per year in order to avoid the affect of the US imposed sanctions on companies regarding the investment limit in Iran. Consequently, the Indian companies could not invest more than $20 million per year in Iran. At this rate, these projects will never be completed, as the energy demand in India keeps growing.
Infrastructure at a massive Iranian South Pars Gas Field
To nullify the US pressure and to fulfill its own energy needs, India is opting for an extremely ambitious sub-sea gas pipeline from Iran or the Gulf States. These projects are also equally unfeasible due to their mammoth cost as well as their technological and geographical challenges.
· The SAGE project: Devised by South Asia Gas Enterprise (SAGE),is an extremely ambitious gas pipeline project using deep sea technologies. It was devised in the 1990’s. The idea revolves around establishing a gas-gathering network in Oman, by connecting the major gas fields in the region and then pumping this to India through the sub-sea, politically neutral energy corridor in international waters of the Arabian Sea.
Proposed SAGE pipeline
· Another project entailstransporting the Turkmen gas in a gas swap deal. Under this project, Turkmenistan will pump in the amount of gas required by India into Iran’s northern Iran gas grid. Iran will then feed in the same amount of Iranian gas into its southern pipelines to Chahbahar port, from where it will be pumped into a sub-sea pipeline leading to India.
However these sub-sea routes are faced with logistical difficulties, including the problem of carrying out maintenance on a sub-sea pipeline at a depth of 3.5 kilometers, costing an additional infrastructure investment of $3 billion, as well as additional transportation tariff. The project is expected to take five years to be completed and will have a capacity of 31.1 million standard cubic metres of gas a day (mscmd).
Geo-hazard challenges for Iran- India subsea gas pipelines:
Though these projects look ambitious and advantageous to Iran, both these projects, according to experts could be eligible for US sanctions. Though there are chances that these may escape sanctions if, like the Turkey-Iran pipeline project, they are conducted through swap deals, and by not buying gas directly from Iran, but again it won’t benefit Iran much.
These projects are unviable due to their high cost, a factor on the pretext of which India had stayed away from Iran-Pakistan pipeline, although according to media reports in 2008, Turkmen gas was charging three times of what India had committed to Iran. Ashgabat reportedly had asked for $400-$450/1000 cubic meters, with additional transport and transit fee that would be payable to Afghanistan and Pakistan, making the final price at around $650-675/1000 cubic meters; India was bargaining for $200-$230/1000 cubic meters.
This fact once again proves that India’s backing off from the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is more due tothe pressure from the US than the cost factor. It is also worthy to note that more than the effect of the UNSC resolution on India’s oil trade with Iran, the US sanctions are impacting India the most. The US has been applying pressure against the Indian companies that have energy relations with Iran.The Indian company Reliance’s decision to terminate exports to Iran came after several US lawmakers urged the Export-Import Bank to suspend the extension of $900 million worth of financialguarantees to RIL to help it to expand its Jamnagar refinery, on the grounds that it was assisting Iran’s economy with the gas sales.
2. India-Iran Strategic Interests and Afghanistan:
India for years has wielded the geopolitics of the region vis-à-vis Afghanistan as a dictating factor in determining its ties with Iran. Since the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Indo-Iran interests continued on the same track however, the bogy derailed completely with the US invasion of Afghanistan. India and the US became allies and strategic partners for the 21st century and India got the US patronage to establish her military footprint in Afghanistan along with the expansion of her economic clout next to Iran, with billions of dollars worth of investment.
This does not set well with Iran, though it had earlier strived for closer cooperation with India against the Taliban influence in Afghanistan. However, in order to avoid treading on the US-Israel sensitivities, India decidedto stay away.
After signing the nuclear deal with US in 2005, India had put all its eggs in the American basket in order to gain influence in Afghanistan, banking on the US policy of stick and carrot to Pakistan regarding the so-called war on terror. The Indian policy makers still support the US/NATO presence in the region so that India is able to launch and support sectarian insurgencies both in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to create a rift between Pakistan and Iran on this sensitive issue. India strongly advocates the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan and this is where the Iranian interests clash with those of India and this is where the Iran-Pakistan interests converge, despite the past cold relations with each other during the Taliban regime in Kabul, after 1996.
With the US/NATO’s complete military failure during the last 10 years in a complex and asymmetric war in Afghanistan, and the subsequent talks of bringing the Taliban fighters onboard in Kabul, India is sensing its dreams of establishing a foothold in the region, dashing to the ground once again.
India and the Nuclear-Armed Shia Iran:
New Delhi has repeatedly voted in favour of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) resolutions against Iran on the grounds that a nuclear Iran is not in India’s interests.
After finding new sources of energy in the US and some western countries, India has manifested a strong shift in its policy over the Iranian nuclear program, which has been one of the major factors that have jolted the Indo-Iranian relations. Prior to that, India had been playing the role of a fence sitter over the issue, saving itself from any Iranian ire since the issue remained within the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) givingIndia an excuse to urge Iran to resolve its differences within the IAEA. However, when the nuclear watchdog decided to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council, India could not remain a fence sitter. Earlier too India had stabbed Iran in the back by siding with the US in September 2005, despite its friendly gestures towards Tehran.
The Indian policy makers have been quoted time and again by the media (read between the lines) that India sees a nuclear Iran destabilizing the entire Middle East. This Indian stance is nothing but reiteration of what the US and Israel have been propagating since years.In the current restive milieu of the region, this Indian stand is based on two factors:
a. Indian Relations with Israel
b. Growing economic relations with Saudi Arabia
c. The Indo-Israeli ties are stronger than the Indo-Iran relations, mainly for its defense purposes and as a counter weight to the nuclear-armed Pakistan, as well as Israeli support for India overthe Kashmir issue. Due to these reasons India won’t anger Israel at any cost. A nuclear Iran would be a real threat to Israel. Both Israeli and Iranian leaderships have vowed, more than once, to destroy each other’s nuclear capabilities. This invariablymakes India and Israel inseparable allies, whereasIran is now being viewed as a hostile state.
Secondly, India has started strengthening its economic ties with Saudi Arabia- a country that is said to be against a nuclear Iran.
The Indian support to the Saudi call of averting the Iranian nuclear program in the Riyadh declaration clearly indicates that Saudi Arabia is emerging as a more important ally for India than Iran. This is where the traditional Saudi-Iran contention, deeply entrenched in sectarian differences, has led India into an anti-Iran part of the whole strategic equation encompassing the region. The declaration asked Iran to "remove regional and international doubts about its nuclear weapons programme."
Some Indian analysts are also of the view that India is seeing Shia Iran as a potential threat to Indian security, as India has the world’s second largest Shia population after Iran. For Shias around the world, Iran is a highly sacred place, hence any statement, policy or support on any issue dealing with the plight of Muslims in Kashmir or India will be taken seriously by theShia Muslims. By putting a bar on the annual Shia procession, during the month of Moharram (First Month of Islamic Calendar), in Srinagar (Indian occupied Kashmir), India has once again demonstrated its desire to suppress any future Shia uprising. Iranians must be monitoring all these developments in India, which are further weakening the bilateral relations of the two states.
Iranian Supreme leader, AyottullahKhamenai, declared India as a Zionist State
For Indians, this sensitivity is a nightmare in the making. Therecent statement of the Supreme Iranian leader on Kashmir,terming the Indian government as a “Zionist Regime,” must suffice to gauge the Iranian mood and reaction to the Indian foreign policy maneuvering regarding Iran’s core interests.
A protest staged by the Shia Indians in July 2010in Dehliagainst thesanctions on Iran, has also set off alarm bells among theIndian policy makers who are concerned that if the pattern continues over different issues,especially with regards to US-Iran, Iran-Israel standoff, and on the sectarian angle, the consequences will be devastating for India.
India also views any future social or moral support to the Indian Shia population from Iran as a catalyst for damaging the growing economic tieswith Saudi Arabia. Thiswill invite the Saudi ire and possibly lead to theArab-Iran race of funding theSunni-Shia groups in India by using sectarian outfits, following the same pattern as per which both countries had fought their surrogate wars in Pakistan.
Keeping in view these factors, India would rather go along with Saudi Arabia, which has the US backing as well as a strong US military influence. Surely, a weak Iran is in the interests of India rather than a nuclear Iran standing up to US-Israel allies of India.
The recent comments by the Iranian Supreme Spiritual leader against the Indian brutalities have sent a wave of anger in Indian policy makers. Many had tried to portray it as aninsignificant, unofficial remark; Delhi also tried to play it down saying it was said due to the Indian vote against Iran. On the other hand, the Iranian newspaper, reflecting Iranian thinking condemned the Indian invasion of Kashmir.
However, this is not the first time the Iranians have shown support for the rights of theKashmiris. In 2008 the Iranian media embarrassed India when PernabMukherjee visited Iran.Just four days before Mukherjee arrived in Tehran, the Tehran Times newspaperfeatured an article titled "The Black Day of Kashmir - 61 years of pain", on the occasion of the anniversary of the Indian military intervention in Kashmir on October 27, 1947, which it termed as "one of the darkest chapters in the history of South Asia", condemning the Indian stance on the Kashmir issue.
The article said, "India continues to defy the world by denying Kashmiris their inalienable right to determine their destiny ... The atmosphere of tension in India-Pakistan relations has engendered instability and insecurity in South Asia. The urgency of the situation and the need to resolve the dispute as soon as possible cannot be over-emphasized ... The world's Muslims will always stand by the Kashmiris until they succeed in their struggle to attain the right to self-determination." The article also mentioned Iran's "deep-rooted spiritual and cultural bonds with the people of Kashmir" stating that in Tehran, Kashmir is known as "Little Iran" - Kashmir-Iran-e-saghir.
3. Shaky Indo-Iran historical ties:
Indians often end up harping about India’s ‘historical’ ties with Iran in a bid to rescue their drowning relations, however, now the phrase ‘historical relations’ holds little weight. The Indo-Iran relations have always been on a shaky ground and not constant. Indian has always played the role of an opportunist rather than a trusted ally.
India-Iran relations came to a halt after the Cold War extended to this part of the world, soon after being initiated in the form of Air Transportation Agreement in 1948. Iran fell into the US camp while India joined the Soviets, despite the announcement of the “non-alignment” policy by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Selecting the opposing political camps put both the countries on a track leading to cold, suspicious and mutually exclusive interests with traces of hostility. Apart from that, Iran historically remained within the circle of close and trusted friends of Pakistan, owing to the similarities in culture, religion and linguistics. Later both also become partners in the West-sponsored Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).
As Pakistan drew closer to Iran, India approached the Arab states like Egypt and Syria. At one point Nehru’s fraternity with the Egyptian President, Jamal Abdul Nasser, irked the Shah of Iran. In a desperate attempt to break the diplomatic deadlock between Tehran and Delhi, the Shah visited India under his engagement policy in 1956, which was followed by a visit of the Indian premier to Tehran in 1959; but even these trips proved futile in bridging the gaps, rather cracks and frictions between the two countries became more visible.
Nehru with Shah of Iran
Though there was a turnaround at the beginning of 1960’s and Iran supported India in the Sino-India conflict of 1962, but Pak-India war of 1965 proved as yet another game changer for the newly formed Indo-Iran relations, when Iran unequivocally vowed to support Pakistan against Indian aggression.
In the late 1960’s the second phase of Indo-Iran relations began owing to some changes in the Pak-Iran relations and the geopolitical environment of the time. The following factors brought both India and Iran closer once again:
· Pakistan and communist China developed close relations. This was annoying for the Shah of Iran.
· Pakistan improved its relations with the Arab states as well and this also irritated the Shah.
· India was not very comfortable with the Arab states’ stance during the Sino-India and Pak-India wars.
Clearly, it was more out of thecompulsion of geopolitics at the time rather than diplomatic efforts from any side that brought India and Iran closer. In the early 70’s, when the world practically entered into the politics of oil, Iran emerged as the strategically pre-eminent power in the region due to its unique geography and vast oil resources. But this spell of warm relations between Tehran and Delhi was threatened by the Iranian support to Pakistan in the 1971 war. However, the Indian diplomacy and Pakistan’s wooing of Gulf States for energy resources enabled India to save its diplomatic ties with Iran.The environment provided an ideal opportunity for India to separate Pakistan and Iran.
But even these relations could not work very well as India was busy in creating her own footprint around Iran during the 1970’s, particularly in Afghanistan. TheSoviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979,proved to be a massive jolt, cracking the diplomatic landscape between Delhi and Tehran, pushing them in two diametrically opposing camps. Iran was not comfortable with Soviet Communism but India was a close ally of the Soviets at that time.Apart from that, the Iranian revolution and Iran-Iraq war also played critical roles in engulfing the bilateral relations.The new revolutionary regime in Iran had more religious agendas than having warm relations with a “secular” India. During the Iran-Iraq war, India supported Iraq thus further complicating its ties with Iran.
Despite these complications, Iran remained too critical a country for India due toits energy resources and another phase of good relations between the two developed when Germany stopped work on the IranianBushehr nuclear program and Iran had to ask India for help, which provided India with an opportunity to revive its relations with Tehran. India announced to send a team to inspect the problem. This set the tone for warm relations between the two during the 1990’s.
India was desperate to assist Iran in order to gain clout on Tehran’s foreign policy towards Pakistan, who at that time was supporting the non-Shia alliance of Afghan resistance against the Soviets. If India and Iran were in the opposing camps at the time, then so were Pakistan and Iran as each supported different sectarian Mujahideen outfits in the Afghan resistance. Such a complicated political environment was ideal for India in order to play some dirty tricks in a bid to create a rift between Islamabad and Tehran. These Indian efforts paid dividend in the Post-Soviet era in Afghanistan during the 1990’s, particularly during the Taliban era after 1996. Taking advantage of this rift, India created its assets in Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. Soon, there were too many rifts between Pakistan and Iran ranging from conflicting approaches to Taliban to the sectarian terrorism in Pakistan in which India’s role cannot be ruled out completely.
By 2001, India was successful in establishing strategic relations with Iran. During his visit to Tehran during the same year, the Indian Prime Minister, AtalBehari Vajpayee affirmed that the depth of Indo-Iran relations gives India “a very special position” in Tehran. The Tehran declaration was signed by both countries, emphasizing close cooperation on international terrorism and “stabilizing” Afghanistan. In 2003, the Road Map to Strategic Cooperation was signed by the two countries. This turn around proved deadly for Pak-Iran relations, utterly incapacitating all bilateral and multilateral organizations like RCO, between Islamabad and Tehran, consequently undermining Pakistan’s geo-economic interests.
2003 – Iranian President Placing Wreath at Ghandi’s Monument
But, the later developments proved that all the bravado by the Indian political leadership vis-à-vis their warm and special relations with Iran, was just sordid lip service. In 2005, India backstabbed Iran on the critical nuclear issue. This act unmasked the real face of Indian friendship with Iran, leaving the latter enraged and stunned. However, this move by India has provided Pakistan with the opportunity to redeem its lost trust in Tehran and bring Beijing in to form a regional security and economic zone, which can be further stretched to Turkey without an iota of doubt.
Indians were clearly eying Iran as a conduit to reach Central Asia and Europe, bypassing Pakistan. Iranians have seen through the game plan and opportunist nature of Indian diplomacy. India has decisively chosen the US and Israel as partners in the 21st century. Now the ball is in Islamabad’s court to take the diplomatic initiative and engage Tehran in a long- term strategic partnership on the same lines as it has established with China since decades. In context of Indo-Iran relations and Pakistan’s prospects in Tehran, the current picture of regional politics can be defined as following:
So far Iran has gained no real benefit from its cooperation with India, rather it is always India whose interests have been served.
· With changing strategic blocks/interests, India will like to turn its back on Iran as she is not in a position to jeopardize its newly developed relations with the US.
· The desire to become a global power by getting a UNSC seat, India would also be very cautious about its relations with Iran.
· Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are rapidly replacing Iran as a trade partner for India.
· Since India is a not the primary player in Afghanistan today and is trying to make its space under the US shadow, the notion of Indo-Iran mutual interests in Afghanistan has also been proven wrong.
In the backdrop of these developments and facts, Pakistan and Iran have no option but to opt for a long-term strategic partnership in order to protect their mutual interests and then to expand this partnership to other nations. But Pakistan can only achieve this after convincing Iran of itsowncritical and strategic importance for the latter.
· Pakistan and Iran must exploit the shared geography along with strategic interests through an institutionalized approach, revising developments on bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries in every field after a stipulated time period. This approach will also be helpful in eliminating mistrust and suspicion created by hostile nations through their dirty wars in the region. Though there are challenges but with the right method and positive approach they can easily be turned into benefits on every axis of bilateral relations. Bringing stability in Afghanistan after the US/NATO withdrawal can only be achieved in a combined effort by Islamabad and Tehran.
· On the political front, Pakistan with its warm relations with both the Arab world and Iran holds the key to minimize the friction between the two. This initiative can trigger bilateralism between Iran and the Arab states.
· Iran andPakistan should join hands with China for energy projects like Iran-Pakistan-China gas pipeline, which will also help the Iranian economy. But apart from the economics, this alliance is required to bring about a strategic balance in the region and subsequently in the world, which currently favors the US and India to unacceptable proportions.
· Russia and China can be taken onboard for a new pressure block against the US policies supported by India.
· Iran should helpraise the voice of Muslims in India, especially in Kashmir. Shia Muslims in India also need special protection from Iran against Indian brutalities.
Despite being a US ally, Pakistan has rightly been seen as a country that wants the US/NATO forces to leave the region. Since prospects of withdrawal are in sight, any solo attempt for influence in Afghanistan by Iran or Pakistan can result in an un-ending and bitter mess like in the past. Therefore, Pak-Iran-Afghanistan alliance is the only way to stabilize the region and stand up to the US bullying.
Iran is too important a country for Pakistan and Pakistan cannot afford to lose it as a strategic ally, particularly in the current geopolitical landscape. The Pakistani foreign office will have to convey to Iran why Pakistan is its natural ally rather than India, and why a mutual understanding between both is necessary in order to protect their combined security, economic and political interests which have now converged like never before.
The future in this region belongs to Pakistan and Iran. It needs courage and a daring initiative to make it happen. It is within reach and must be done at all costs.