Pakistan-Iraq ties represent promising South-South cooperation

The trend of South-South cooperation between the world’s developing (“Global South”) nations is among the most important of the 21st century, driven to a large degree by the enormous strides that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments have made in facilitating everything. The recent strengthening of Pakistani-Iraqi relations as a result of Foreign Minister Qureshi’s several-day trip to the West Asian country is a perfect case in point of this in practice. Bilateral ties are organically improving as Global South nations begin reaching out to one another more confidently to help each other’s transition to the emerging Multipolar World Order.

The Express Tribune already published a detailed report about the Foreign Minister’s visit titled “Pakistan Proposes New Framework For Ties With Iraq”, which should be read as a background briefing to this analysis. The primary points are that Pakistan’s top diplomat informed his hosts about his country’s new multipolar grand strategy of geo-economics and hopes to further expand ties with Iraq through this paradigm. Specifically, Foreign Minister Qureshi “identified areas such as tourism, manpower export, infrastructure development, investment and food security”. He also implied the possibility of enhancing military cooperation in an anti-terrorist capacity too.

Iraq is so attractive to Pakistan because it’s positioned in the central part of the Levant with which the South Asian state intends to spread its influence over the coming years. The de facto expansion of BRI’s flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the western direction via W-CPEC+ could greatly accelerate these two countries’ steps towards an eventual strategic partnership. Not only could Pakistani-Iraqi trade be conducted through maritime routes like it’s mostly already done, but perhaps soon even mainland ones if W-CPEC+ results in greater trans-regional connectivity between West and South Asia with time.

As for Iraq, it appreciates the fact that Pakistan is perhaps China’s top BRI partner anywhere in the world by virtue of hosting this global initiative’s flagship project. The West Asian state could therefore learn a lot from its South Asian counterpart if the two begin to systematically share their BRI-driven developmental experiences. Furthermore, Iraq could benefit from Pakistan’s successes in stabilising its formerly restive border regions after winning its own War on Terror. With all due respect to Baghdad’s top American, Iranian, and Saudi partners, they’ve struggled to stabilise the security situation in Iraq, hence the appeal of reaching out to Pakistan.

Seeing as how Pakistan enjoys excellent relations with all three of Iraq’s top partners (albeit to differing extents of course), there’s no reason for any of them to feel “geopolitically jealous” of those two countries’ strengthening ties. They don’t pose a threat to any of their interests. To the contrary, they complement them by improving Iraq’s stability in the best-case scenario, especially if Foreign Minister Qureshi makes any progress on having Pakistan support Iraq’s rebuilding like he also expressed interest in doing. By diversifying its partnerships, Iraq can also prospectively balance a bit better between the larger powers that compete on its territory.

Having explained all of this, nobody should expect any serious progress anytime soon. Pakistani-Iraqi ties are only just now being prioritised by both parties. They have a lot of catching up to do after this promising vector of South-South cooperation was neglected for far too long owing to a variety of reasons largely beyond their control. All that observers should do for now is pay attention to the growth of Pakistani-Iraqi relations across the coming years in order to identify emerging patterns of South-South cooperation through the CPEC+ format that lies at the core of Islamabad’s new geo-economic grand strategy.