Trade dilemma


There’s a lot to consider as President Ebrahim Raisi wraps up a much-talked-about trip to Pakistan as the first Iranian head of state in the last eight years. While pledges of a must-have increase in bilateral trade (to an overwhelming $10 billion a year) and a visible attempt to repair the frayed bilateral relationship in the wake of tit-for-tat strikes managed to remain in the limelight – prompting in-depth attention from both national and international media – all this is easier said than done.
US State Department did not even wait for Mr Raisi to take off before issuing a sternly-worded caution: think about rebuilding ties at your own risk. In a manner strictly befitting its past efforts to contain Iran, sanctions were waived, effectively increasing the cost of business. That Pakistan cannot afford to draw the ire of superpowers it is desperately seeking help from to spell an end to its financial woes has been repeatedly said and done.
May it be the dilemma of how to conclude the long-drawn-out Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, especially when Tehran is not in a forgiving mood, turns a blind eye to the extraordinary convenience of regional trade or the very fact that no country can survive as an island, policymakers in Islamabad would have to come up with effective out-of-box solutions to ensure it maintains cordial engagement with archrivals.
A most obvious response to Washington’s dictate could have been, “can you help us sustain our failing energy sector?” To borrow their words, Pakistan needed to “speak” to its foreign policy pursuits since the writing on the wall suggested it was fast running out of affordable energy options. However, a controversial mantra once casually chanted by the current prime minister, “beggars can’t be choosers” offers a perfect explanation.
We might have enjoyed ten seconds of glory as the rest of the world went over the photo sessions and press statements with a fine-tooth comb but the show’s presumably over now. It might not mount up to much beyond a meet-and-greet.