Today, think tanks are among key actors whose role in expanding trade, international relations, evaluating the mutual affairs of countries, rules and rights, development, stimulating drivers, and many other issues, is undeniable. Think tanks create a space for the exchange of ideas and integrate national perspectives, giving them consistency. In the next stage, these national ideas are translated into an international language and culture during a complex procedure for better reading by the outside world at the international level. In this space, having the use of think tanks is a must for every country. This is further highlighted within the context of Iran’s relations with its neighbouring countries as it has not prioritized the neighbourhood policy for a good length of time. In the present note, this important issue is discussed in Iran-Pakistan relations.
Perhaps the most relevant role of think tanks is that they can provide timely analyses of foreign affairs and international relations, suggesting alternative policies to politicians. In the troubled region of West Asia, in circumstances where the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has once again challenged the security issue, increasing closeness between Iran and Pakistan can present key solutions to mitigate the crisis. In the meantime, however, the two countries have been working on a specific range of topics in the traditional manner, the conventional continuation of which will only reproduce the same misrepresentations and neglect other vital and shared priorities. Hence, think tanks must enter the scope of mutual topics between the two countries, evaluate existing potentials, and use their scientific and human wealth and resources to redesign and reprioritize all the available options.
At their best, think tanks are able to envisage the greater political picture at the national, regional, and international levels and fulfil the task of brokering ideas. They can also stimulate general discussions to present innovative solutions which may not be pursued by policymakers and the general public. Before we point the finger of doubt about the positive-negative social effects on ourselves, we must be aware that this aims mainly to influence businessmen, entrepreneurs, knowledge-based companies, professors, and other capitals of the target community. The think tank acts as a filter which has the knowledge to deal with both parties (government and society). At a time when countries seek to find knowledge-based scientific solutions, even engineering and technical affairs can be better received through think tanks. In addition, knowledge-based think tanks inside the country can accept the agency of dealing with traders, industrialists, and technicians in Pakistan. This is of course subject to taking a close look at the activities of think tanks and helping them to grow and develop domestically. To attain this, accurate knowledge of think tanks is a must.
A national think tank endeavours to find the country’s key role in contributing to global, regional, and domestic policies. Think tanks are the connecting rings in political trends which act as a basis for global innovations, bridging the gap, and filling the void between knowledge and politics in countries. The researchers and experts active in think tanks are often people who have gathered many years of international experience in diplomacy in their respective governments, have extensive knowledge in an array of subjects, and have authored numerous political books on the most profound current issues of their country within regional and global contexts. Without a trace of a doubt, such expertise is rarely found among policymakers. As for the engineering, technical, and industrial circles, it is safe to say that no such expertise is available here. Of course, the initial reason for setting up think tanks was precisely to provide this very knowledge and information to policymakers. Nevertheless, an unwillingness to accommodate think tanks prevents ministers, ambassadors, advisors, and diplomatic officials to place orders with these institutions. As for international entities, we witness a stalemate in the stagnant potentials of think tanks.
Today, many international think tanks have merely concentrated on a single subject and their output is limited to presenting solutions, recommendations, strategies, policies, polls, research, and books in the same field. Other think tanks are able to cover a wider range of topics, including local policy, foreign policy, international relations, political strategies, and the economy, industry, and culture. The existing understanding to plan and elucidate the neighbourhood policy and the balanced policy of the new Iranian government in this historical moment demonstrates that many of the existing areas are faced with a lack of knowledge and cognition and this is why they have been caught unawares. Hence, the potential of independent, neutral think tanks must be tapped to move ahead. The need for trial and error is also seen alongside this strategic tool (the think tank) to engage in the neighbourhood policy, the reason for which is naturally a lack of prior accurate forecasts. The need for trial and error can only be managed with mitigated negative consequences if it takes place at the level of think tanks rather than governments. Think tanks must act as ice-breakers in relations and see the depth of the iceberg existing in Iran-Pakistan ties. They must “put aside shyness” so to speak and clearly engage in all existing areas to review priorities so that, within the next decade, Pakistani companies can get executive advice from us in areas such as democracy and eliminating corruption.
The current issues between Iran and Pakistan have been discussed on an ongoing basis by politicians and experts and include numerous problems. This rehash of issues is not a sign of neglect or affairs which are difficult. Those present in a negotiation room, including diplomats, only have yes and no answers ready. But in a think tank, researchers connect a range of fuzzy answers to a mass of information and knowledge and an endless number of answers can be extracted from every yea or nay. Therefore, if think tanks in both countries are charged with a set of affairs as a first step and accept the responsibility of guiding a bilateral relationship between peer think tanks, it creates the potential to infinitely break down and expand issues in different areas. As such, the precise reason for something like “Why investing in leather under economic diplomacy with Pakistan does not take place given its available potentials” will be the duty of one Iranian and one Pakistani expert who must be answerable for their research. This means that neither the governments nor the businessmen have committed at this point. This is only possible if the said “shyness” is put aside realistically.
Two Iranian and Pakistani peer think tanks can discuss an array of topics concerning both countries, such as key jobs, unemployment, family issues such as marriage and children, the role of innovative technologies, industry, engineering, security studies, defence industries, military training, new methods of diplomacy, environmental conservation, approach to Afghanistan, nature of international relations, nature of the international order, and much more classified under political, scientific, technical, military, and economic affairs, as well as the arts and culture. Furthermore, think tanks such as universities can contribute to direct, correct thinking and training for the other party. They can provide the right knowledge by giving scholarships to new students and researchers. This will have its own advantages compared with universities attracting students, such as students not having to worry about tuition fees, as well as taking advantage of the expertise and knowledge of people instead of training and exporting technicians. It will also promote the level of diplomatic ties in the long run.
Last but not least, think tanks are a space for recognizing the rights of asylum seekers, children, immigrants, and political prisoners, as well as putting pressure on governments, politicians, traders, businesses, and violators of human rights to prevent taking advantage of human rights. The human issues which have been piled up in West Asia can be verified by Iranian and Pakistani think tanks in their own voices, while the roots of cultural and religious prejudice are dried up and the imposed extremism is uprooted to display the real reasons for backwardness, poverty, and the subsequent inequality, all of which inflict irreparable damages on the region. The outcome of cooperation between think tanks will allow the voices of governments and advocates to be heard more clearly from the joint tribune of work by Iran and Pakistan and even act as a wake-up call for some of the slumbering countries in the region.