After almost a year since the change of government in both countries, Nawaz Sharif is visiting Iran, in a bid to improve ties between the two countries. The past year has been fraught with issues between the neighbors, starting with Pakistan’s lack of initiative regarding the Iran-Pak gas pipeline and Iran’s repeated requests to Pakistan to increase border security on its side of the border, an issue which escalated tensions between the two allies when five border guards were abducted from Iran and brought to Pakistan in February. Abdul Malik Baloch, the Chief Minister of Balochistan is accompanying the Prime Minister on the trip across the border, but given the fact that border security on the West is handled by the Frontier Corps and the army, Baloch’s commitment to improve border security in Balochistan may not be enough to appease Iran.

The current regime had promised to continue work on the IP pipeline if they won in the elections, but they neglected to do so when they came into power, making excuse after excuse, from blaming it on US sanctions on Iran and even asking Iran to fund the whole project, citing lack of funds as the biggest obstacle. The $1.5 billion ‘gift’ from Saudi Arabia seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the project, however, on this visit to Tehran, Nawaz has reiterated his commitment to the pipeline once more. The deadline for the completion of the project on the 31st of December looming ever closer, Iran has even offered to waive the daily fine of $3 million which will be implemented starting the 1st of January if the pipeline is not complete.

The PML-N’s election campaign was focused on improving ties with neighboring countries as well as increasing trading opportunities closest to home, but in this matter, they have failed in both the East and West. In the North, China remains our friend and closest ally but the current government does not deserve the credit for that. Towards the East, Pakistan has been unable to increase trade with India, and the cancellation of the visas of the two Indian journalists is not really going to boost relations between the two countries. And on the West, the presidential elections in Afghanistan are not likely to bring in a new leader that will be favourable towards Pakistan. Iran and Rouhani are the last hope for Nawaz Sharif to fulfil his commitment of improving regional ties. He must now prove that his words carry some practical weight as well.