Potential China-Iran pact has major implications for Pakistan

Al-Monitor | Sabena Siddiqui: As speculation abounds over a leaked draft of an economic and security deal between Iran and China, its potential effects on Pakistan stand out as particularly dramatic.

After an 18-page draft agreement of an economic and security partnership between Iran and China was leaked earlier this month, there has been wide speculation on what the deal — if realized — would mean for the region. One country that has the potential to be significantly impacted is Pakistan.

As various reports about the deal fed the media hype and prompted domestic criticism in Iran, Mahmoud Vaezi, the chief of staff for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said a final agreement could be reached by the end of the current Iranian year in March 2021.

It is unclear why the draft was leaked prematurely, unless Tehran intended to convey the message that it has other options available. However, it is safe to assume that the trade deal would likely resemble agreements China has with 15 other countries in the region as well as Pakistan.

Since Iran and Pakistan are neighbors, any partnership between the former and China is bound to have an impact on Islamabad, and some projects could even become trilateral. In the event that an China-Iran deal is finalized with the terms that have been leaked, here are some of the main implications and benefits for Pakistan:

First, according to the draft agreement, China could be spending a sum of $400 billion in Iran. This figure dwarfs the $46 billion Beijing had set out to invest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Even though Beijing would be spending this sum in Iran over a period of 25 years, the sheer scale of the investments would lend Iran more importance than Pakistan. However, going by the slow rate at which Pakistan’s CPEC has moved ahead, the development in Iran may take a lot more time than planned.

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