To say that President Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan bore mixed results would be a gross over-simplification. The trip was as important as it was historic, and although the horrific Lahore attack and the rampage by pro-Qadri fanatics took most of the sheen – and the attention – off it, the trip does provide some important revelations.

For Pakistan, balancing the strategic demands and fears of Saudi Arabia and Iran was always going to be a tough act, and despite recent progress it still is. However, it is encouraging to see that both Iran and Pakistan approached bilateral ties in an open manner and the resulting agreements over trade, energy and development are a testament to that fact. The mooted link between Gawadar – a Chinese funded port – and Chahbahar – it’s Indian counterpart – was a welcome and feasible surprise. Arguably, this trip heralds the beginning of a new phase in the Iran-Pakistan relationship, where pragmatic economic concerns supersede regional political ones – at least that is what the Pakistani government, and the people, would like to see.

Achieving that reality is another matter entirely. Notwithstanding the MOUs signed, the Iranian government has come under fire at home for an “underwhelming” Pakistan trip – with critics and rival politicians suggesting that the President could have done much more. Indian publications on the other hand wanted the President to do much less, especially when it came to Chahbahar. While many hoped Iranian authorities could continue being ambivalent, the RAW spying issue forced the two opposing sides to conflict – and the result was a discordant note in the proceedings. The capture of Yadav – who had entered Balochistan through Iran – and his subsequent confession put President Rouhani on the spot. The COAS raised the issue of RAW’s activities with him and which – in what is perhaps a diplomatic blunder – where widely publicised and proudly touted by the media. His subsequent denial of having such a conversation, even in the face of the Pakistan foreign ministry publicly handing documents related to Yadev to the Iranian minister is what is truly underwhelming.

Considering the factually proven strong strategic ties between India and Iran nobody expected him to condemn RAW or India, but an acknowledgement of the conversation would’ve been enough. If Iran seeks regional stability by curbing the activities of Sunni militants than Pakistan’s legitimate concerns over the activities of Indian agents is a reasonable one. Asking a neighbouring state help protect your sovereignty is not spreading “reckless rumours” nor does it “damage bilateral relations” – it is standard fare in diplomatic meetings. RAW is present in Pakistan, just as the ISI was present in Afghanistan – these are facts.

Pakistan and Iran certainly made progress, and hopefully more is to come as existing agreements come to completion. There is vast unrealised potential between the culturally akin neighbours. Yet in tenaciously protecting Indian interests, Iran has hinted that it is more invested in its partnership with India than Pakistan is in its relationship with Saudi Arabia.