Pakistan can now be added to the growing list of countries that’ll come to rely on Iran for facilitating their trade with Russia after the US-led West’s sanctions cut off practically all of its other trade routes to the wider world.
Chairman of the Russia-Iran Joint Trade Council Vladimir Abedinov floated a proposal on Saturday for utilizing Iranian railways for facilitating trade with Pakistan. According to him, “Completion of the Rasht-Astara route is of great importance for Russia’s trade purposes. This [route] paves the way for Russia to access Pakistan.” He also added that this rail corridor would streamline trade with India through the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC).
This pragmatic proposal speaks to Russia’s sincere desire to continue expanding trade with Pakistan in spite of the post-modern coup that ousted former Prime Minister Imran Khan in early April. It also aligns with what both countries’ ambassadors recently said as well. The Pakistani one to Russia revealed that businessmen were employing a currency swap with China to continue trade with his host country while the Russian one to Pakistan confirmed that talks are being held over food and fuel imports.
The Russian-Pakistani dimension of the NSTC is the only practical way for expanding bilateral trade since February 2021’s agreement to build a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway appears to be off the cards for now considering Pakistan’s crippling economic crisis. In other words, instead of Afghanistan facilitating their trade as was previously expected, this role will now be played by Iran, which further boosts the Islamic Republic’s importance for both countries.
One of the most unexpected consequences of Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine is Iran’s emergence as Moscow’s logistical lifeline to the global economy through the NSTC, which is in turn imbuing the Islamic Republic with unparalleled geostrategic significance. This coincides with the latest phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity and is thus accelerating Iran’s rise as one of Eurasia’s top Great Powers.
It’s indisputably becoming the core of the supercontinent’s connectivity projects since Iran is both the NSTC’s irreplaceable transit state as well as an anchor along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor (the “Central Asian Silk Road”) to Europe. Pakistan can now be added to the growing list of countries that’ll come to rely on Iran for facilitating their trade with Russia after the US-led West’s sanctions cut off practically all of its other trade routes to the wider world.
Returning back to the topic of Russian-Pakistani trade being facilitated by Iran through the NSTC’s future rail route, it’s hoped that the second-mentioned state’s reluctance to employ the earlier mentioned currency swap with China won’t prove to be an impediment in this respect. Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, state-controlled Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) inability to pay Russia’s overflight charges earlier this month very strongly suggested that the state isn’t using this channel.
Be that as it may, the Pakistani Ambassador to Russia’s claim that his country’s businessmen were already employing this workaround can be interpreted as the state approving private enterprises’ use of this channel and declining to stop them in spite of the post-coup authorities’ pro-US outlook. From this, observers can intuit that the multipolar school of thought within its Establishment remains relevant with respect to formulating their country’s policy towards Russia.
From this, it’s predicted that the economic dimension of Russian-Pakistani ties will continue expanding in the private sphere even if the public one’s future remains uncertain as a result of the second-mentioned state’s implied reluctance to utilize the currency swap with China that was earlier discussed as a workaround for continuing trade with Russia. The best-case scenario is that this changes sometime soon but it can’t be taken for granted considering the post-coup government’s pro-US outlook.