Pakistan’s progress as a nation has been hindered by various factors, both internal and external. One such factor is the perception of its neighbors, Afghanistan, India, and Iran, as hindrances to its economic and social growth. The majority of Pakistani inhabitants do not believe in the nationhood of terrorists and consider them to be proxies for war economies operating in the region. Many locals believe that Iran is an unofficial but strategic rival of Pakistan, and they blame Iran for obstructing the functional growth of Gwadar, Pasni, and Jivani seaports, while favoring Chabahar and Bandar Abbas seaports. Furthermore, Pakistanis believe that Iran is preventing them from utilizing natural oil reservoirs existing within the soil of Balochistan. These perceptions are fueled by various incidents, including the arrest of a group of terrorists in Karachi in May 2021, many of whom were trained by the IRGC in Iran, and involved in the killing of significant Sunni and Twelver-Shia scholars.
Additionally, it is believed that India and the United States do not want to see a rising, nuclear-stable Pakistan or Pakistan as a strategic ally of China. This view has been fueled by the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is considered by some to be a strategic move by Pakistan to align with China’s interests. As a result, some believe that India and the United States are opposing CPEC and indirectly supporting terrorist activities in Pakistan.
These perceptions are not without basis. For instance, in 2019, the ISI dismantled an Indian-paid network in Gilgit-Baltistan whose only aim was to provoke the Balawaristan National Front against Pakistan. Furthermore, reports suggest that India has been involved in sponsoring terrorist activities in Pakistan. These incidents have reinforced the negative perceptions of Pakistan’s neighbors and contributed to the perception that Pakistan is surrounded by enemies who are hindering its economic and social progress.
In the matter of facts, the perception of Pakistan’s neighbors, Afghanistan, India, and Iran, as hindrances to its economic and social growth is a significant obstacle that Pakistan needs to overcome to achieve its full potential. While some of these perceptions may be based on sectarian differences, others are fueled by concrete incidents, such as the involvement of Iran in obstructing the growth of seaports and preventing Pakistan from utilizing natural oil reservoirs, and the involvement of India in sponsoring terrorist activities in Pakistan. It is, therefore, essential for Pakistan to address these issues and work towards building constructive relationships with its neighbors to achieve its economic and social goals.