South Asia to Benefit If US-Iran Rapprochement Takes Place
Some experts say President Obama's recent overture to Iran could eventually have
ramifications for South Asia if relations between the two nations someday
improve. Regional specialists spoke with VOA on the possible political and
economic impact the rapprochement between Washington and Tehran could have on
South Asia, especially Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Afghanistan now has a new road linking it with Chahbahar port in Iran.
But the 200-kilometer road in Afghanistan's
southwestern province of Nimroz was built with India's help so its exports could
reach Afghanistan. The goods have to pass through Iran because Pakistan denies
India access to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's southwestern province of Nimroz
Yet trade links among the countries of South Asia and with Iran are likely to
expand, say experts, if there is a rapprochement between Tehran and Washington.
"The famous India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline issue becomes a reality. And of course
then, depending on how the negotiations between the three take place in terms of
the cost of that, it will help all three countries enormously," said Shuja Nawaz,
who is with the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Nawaz was talking about a nearly $8 billion proposed natural gas pipeline that
will run from Iran to India through Pakistan. He says the pipeline is bound to
improve ties between India and Pakistan because of its economic benefits.
"Another big thing is that once you open up these [kind of] pipelines, then
cross Pakistan trade between India and Afghanistan opens up too, and then
between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia," he added.
The fight against Taliban extremists also would be affected by a normalization
of relations, says James Clad who is at the National Defense University. Iran
moved against the Taliban and al-Qaida after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against
the United States.
Clad says the Bush administration failed to take advantage of the Iranian
This may change now, he says.
"But I think there are interests that the U.S.
and Iran have, no matter what their political leaderships are, those interests
are separate from whoever is in front of the microphone, and I think those
interests probably will have all kinds of impact on South Asia," he said.
President Obama's recent overture to Iran was
dismissed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But he said if the
United States changes, Iran also will change its behavior.
And analysts such as Clad say it will take time to overcome nearly three decades
"There is more than just one
Iran," he said. "The question is how do we deal with it and how do we approach
But Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support for
groups such as Hezbollah remain major stumbling blocks in any move to improve
bilateral relations. While President Obama at his news conference Tuesday
expressed hope that he can make progress with Tehran, he also said he does not
expect change overnight.
... Payvand News - 03/27/09 ... --