Iran is a Shia country. Turkey and Pakistan are both Sunni countries. Both of them have borders with Iran.

It seems to me that Turkey-Iran relationship is functioning well, but, Iran-Pakistan relationship is not.

  1. June 21, 2017 - Iranian drone shot down by PAF, confirms FO.
  2. May 8, 2017 - Iran threatens to cross Pakistan border.
  3. Revealed: What Iran did for India and why it is hurt
  4. Iran rejects allegations of its agencies’ links to Uzair Baloch

So, why is that going on like this?

3 Answers 3


Much of this is speculation, but will try to backup opinions with links.

Turkey - Iran

  1. Common ground vs Kurds. Despite the religious differences, both countries find common ground in fighting Kurdish independence. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-kurds-referendum-minis/turkey-iran-iraq-consider-counter-measures-over-kurdish-referendum-idUSKCN1BW1EA

  2. Oil. There's a larger deal apparently being inked that involves Russia and a 7 billion USD deal, but more long standing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabriz%E2%80%93Ankara_pipeline "The Turkish section, operated by BOTAŞ, cost US$600 million. The Turkish annual import consists normally 11 billion cubic meters of natural gas." Can usually trace good relations to money.

  3. $10 billion in trade between the 2 nations, both countries benefit greatly from cross border tourism as well.

  4. Turkey neutrality on Israel - Iran policy. Turkey recognizes Israel, but has otherwise remained very neutral towards the conflict.

  5. Military equality / standoff. When it comes down to it, there really is no clear winner in a conflict between these two nations. http://armedforces.eu/compare/country_Iran_vs_Turkey sometimes a balance of power maintains peace.

  6. Turkey - Saudi relations. Despite the two nations having common sunni populations, they have had a rough history and the Saudi's have little influence within Turkey and very often, Turkey opposes Saudi efforts. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/qatar-crisis-turkey-saudi-arabia-uae-egypt-economic-sanctions-blockade-air-base-a7805346.html This is much different than Pakistan that readily accepts help and policy from the Saudi's that Iran heavily resists.

Pakistan - Iran

This was a closer relationship further back...Iran was the first state to support (50's) and recognize Pakistan as a separate entity from India. However that has changed in more recent years as Pakistan went from friends to rivals during the Iranian revolution in 1979. For a brief time, Iran and Pakistan supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan...with Russia support for Iraq and Pakistan support for Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, Pakistan and Iran saw several reasons to grow closer. But that changed...the Mujahideen were two very distinct groups and Pakistan supported the Sunni Taliban explicitly which the Shia Iranians did not. After Russia was gone, the Iranian backed Tajiks and the Pakistan backed Taliban started another conflict for control of the region. Pakistan was thrown into this odd position of keeping allies on the US and Saudi side happy at the same time as the Iranians. This culminated in 1998 http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9809/15/iran.afghan.tensions.02/index.html when the Taliban killed several Iranian diplomats and citizens and reporters (just after the Taliban had slaughtered Shia in Mazar-i-Sharif). This led to Iran building up its military and prepping an invasion of Taliban controlled Afghanistan (odd that it would be the US that eventually topples the Taliban rule). Iran actually became a major criticizer of Pakistan Nuclear efforts around this time. Pakistan has actually blocked several attempts from Iran to get this nuclear weapon technology since, a point that likely sours this relation further.

By the 90's, Iran and Saudi Arabia were involved in a proxy war within Pakistan. At one point in time, it was declared that Ayatollah Khomeini is a symbol of Islamic insurgence and Pakistan Sunni's were preparing for the conflict to spill into their lands.

Couple other points:

  1. Pakistan - US relations. I'm not 100% clear on Pakistan's reasoning, but they've always had a slightly more 'pro-US' view than the majority of Muslim states and this has always had them in tougher relations with Iran (added to clarify, this had them in tougher relations with Iran post Iranian revolution '79, not 'always').

  2. Pakistan support for the US led "war on terror". Iran feared they were next, especially after being labelled as part of the 'axis of evil' by Bush, and Pakistan would be key in a US led invasion of Iran. (The axis of evil declaration and US involvement in Afghanistan was always a bit strange...Iran actually supported the efforts to remove the Taliban, while the US allied with Pakistan who supported the Taliban).

  3. Cross border militants. Sunni 'Taliban' and other elements within Pakistan are launching attacks into Shia Iran, Pakistan failure to contain this has resulted in Iran mulling about military action into Pakistan territory to put an end to it themselves. This is very a very stark contrast to Turkey-Iran efforts vs Kurds in Iraq.

  4. Pakistan - Saudi ties. Saudi's continue to fuel the fire in Sunni vs Shia relations and Iran holds Pakistan responsible for not ending the relation. This is in stark contrast compared to Turkey - Saudi relations.

  5. Oil! Had to come up, Iran - Pakistan - India oil deals have repeatedly fell through and have only gained a little momentum in the past 10 years. Of course, Pakistan's ear is always open to the US

If I had to summarize in a single line as to why the relations are different...I'd go with Turkey opposes Saudi Arabia while Pakistan supports their efforts.

  • "Pakistan has actually blocked several attempts from Iran to get this nuclear weapon" is not proved.
    – user 1
    Oct 20, 2017 at 7:31
  • @user1 - I'll have to find sources, according to the IAEA, Iran had attempted to purchase fuel-cycle tech and up to $5b for nuclear weapons tech...IAEA says both times Pakistan rejected. There is reports of a senior Pakistan official giving classified docs to Iran regarding centrifuges.
    – Twelfth
    Oct 20, 2017 at 15:19
  • Good points, but I don't think US relations are relevant. Pakistan is a US ally and Turkey is in NATO. I also think Pakistan is much less friendly with Israel than Turkey (it has never recognised Israel!), so that's irrelevant too. However, I think your point on Pakistan-Saudi relations are probably far much more important than implied. Saudi and Iran despise each other more than anything, and Pakistani Islam has become increasingly like Saudi Islam.
    – user8398
    Nov 22, 2017 at 11:25
  • 1
    @inappropriateCode - You are correct with pakistan-israel relations, I only included the Israel component for Turkey to state that there doesn't appear to be any negativity between Iran-Turkey despite Turkey recognizing Israel. I believe Pakistani passports have " "This passport is valid for all countries of the World except Israel." written on them. For US relations, Pakistan has been put into this 'pacify the US and Iran' situation that Turkey has managed to avoid...you are right that they are relative side notes compared to Saudi relations. My end statement tries to address that
    – Twelfth
    Nov 22, 2017 at 16:34
  • i think this answer is not complete without mentioning huge population of Azeri turks in Iran, nearly a thousand years of mutual history and nearly stable border for 400 years which is one of the oldest.
    – Gorkem
    Jul 2, 2019 at 7:21

Common interests:

Iran and Turkey both have an interest in preventing greater autonomy for their Kurdish regions. They are both involved in opposing Daesh, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

On the other hand, elements in Pakistan have been tolerant of Taliban and Al Qaeda. There is no common enemy, like the Kurds, for Iran and Pakistan to join in opposition.

Such alliances are often fragile and relatively short lived.

  • kurdish rise, daesh, etc. are more recent phenomena.
    – user17569
    Oct 19, 2017 at 16:20
  • I'm addressing the current political reality, so I'm taking recent examples But Al Queda is over 20 years old, the Taliban is older and there have been Kurdish nationalist movements since 1917, not so recent.
    – James K
    Oct 19, 2017 at 16:46

Since the question is built on the most common religious beliefs in the said countries, one possible and alternative answer is in the Constitution of Turkey.

Article 2: Characteristics of the Republic

The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law; bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice; respecting human rights; loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk, and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the Preamble.

Turkey is a secular state and foreign affairs don't have to be based on any religion. Even some practices of Justice and Development Party (AKP) cannot change that.

For example: 2008 Justice and Development Party closure trial

  • Aren't both Pakistan and Turkey secular republics on paper? But in reality religion plays an increasing role internally and externally for both?
    – user8398
    Nov 22, 2017 at 11:27
  • @inappropriateCode Pakistan is not a secular state (1). Turkey's long term relations with EU, NATO, Russia and Israel prove that religion's role on foreign policy is very limited. Recent issues are not related to religion, but inability of the government.
    – user15657
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:28
  • Turns out it is the state religion, you're right Pakistan's not a strictly secular place. But to say Turkey is entirely secular because of the constitution is I think naïve. Because the evidence is that they have a Directorate of Religious Affairs which it has been alleged is used to project the unofficial state religion internally and externally. And this directorate has a budget of over $2bln.
    – user8398
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:58
  • Also, importantly, "long term relations with... prove the religion's role on foreign policy is limited." is not self evident. What someone claims or has written on paper is not the same as what is real. Especially given the aforementioned evidence.
    – user8398
    Nov 22, 2017 at 14:00
  • @inappropriateCode I agree with the article you have referred to. AKP certainly abuses some laws and institutions. My claim is just for the higher-level diplomatic relations. The Directorate of Religious Affairs has no right or power at that level.
    – user15657
    Nov 22, 2017 at 15:30

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