PM Imran Khan, Iranian leadership discuss range of issues
Relations between Pakistan and Iran are mainly influenced by cultural and religious ties. Soon after independence in 1947, Tehran has come forward to establish brotherly relations with Pakistan. Following the visit by Pakistan’s prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, diplomatic relations between the both countries became more vibrant. Later the shah of Iran visited Pakistan in 1950. A major opportunity for collaboration between Iran and Pakistan was provided by the US led Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), created in 1955. CENTO was a crucial factor in further strengthening Pakistan-Iran ties. It also paved the way for collaboration in security matters, moreover the desire for economic cooperation was realised through the creation of the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) in 1964 with Iran, Pakistan and Turkey as its initial members.
In May 2017, Hassan Rouhani was elected for four more years as president of Iran. Fortunately, he is the one who has moderate thinking. He is also supported by the ethnic Sunni groups in Iran, who see him as a better choice than others. Hassan Rouhani has vowed to boost cooperation on regional security and trade during his visit to Islamabad in 2016, the first visit by an Iranian head of state in 14 years.
The project, known as The Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India natural gas pipeline, or TAPI, would provide energy and employment to the people of the region. In a broader scenario the pipeline is not only for the purpose of transporting gas, but will also connect one of the most economically disconnected regions, with unending border disputes and geopolitical conflict between India and Pakistan, as well as troubles in Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has the fourth largest reservoir of gas in the world and India, Asia’s third largest economy, is a major consumer. From Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh gas field, the pipeline will enter Afghanistan to pass through Herat and Kandahar and the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Multan, before reaching India at Fazilka in northern Punjab province. Currently during visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran both countries has showed their consent that, Pakistan and Iran will establish a joint border security force to respond to an uptick in violence along the countries’ shared border.
Border security was top of the agenda for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Tehran, where he met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, especially in context of recent a recent unfortunate event in which at least 14 Pakistani security forces personnel were killed in a bus ambush. There were evidences of involvement of Iran-based armed groups as revealed by foreign Minister of Pakistan. Both countries also agreed to establish a barter committee to aid in a planned increase in trade between them.
There is consent from both sides to set up a barter committee so that the goods and needs of the two countries can be exchanged and a barter account is created. Plans were already in the works to link the two countries new deepwater trade ports of Gwadar and Charbahar by rail. Pakistan had always walked a tightrope in its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, eager to maintain neutrality while staying close to both allies. Pakistan has maintained a delicate balance in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On March 21, Iran announced that four other abducted guards had been released with the efforts of the Pakistani Army. Islamabad has vowed to gear up the fight against terrorism and its measures to provide western borders with increased security can have a significant effect on the development of ties with Iran. Pakistan’s Relations with Iran are marked by close historic and cultural linkages and strong people to people exchanges. Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate the menace of terrorism are very much evident. Security agencies of Pakistan must be appreciated for the way they tackled and overcame terrorism in Pakistan. These efforts will further continue during the tenure of current government and thereafter.
To take bilateral brotherly relations forward, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid a visit to Tehran and held detailed discussions with Iranian leadership on the issues related to the promotion of bilateral cooperation between both the countries. Addressing a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Islamabad was determined not to allow terrorists to use its soil for attacking other countries. He noted that that despite the presence of the NATO in Afghanistan not much has been achieved in fighting terrorist there while by now all Pakistani political groups have come to the conclusion that Pakistan should not allow militant groups to use their soil for terrorist attacks against other countries.
The most important reason for my visit to Iran is terrorism, he said, adding that a recent uptake in terrorist attacks had caused differences between Tehran and Islamabad. We know that Iran also suffers from terrorism and terrorist groups that use Pakistani soil for terrorist operations, Imran Khan mentioned, saying he has brought along the country’s security chief to hold talks with Iranian authorities.
Imran Khan emphasized that both Islamabad and Tehran should build mutual confidence and assure that terrorist groups won’t use their soil to launch terrorist attacks. We need to build confidence and engage in cooperation in various fields, he said. The Pakistani Premier stressed that its north-western neighbour has been grappling with four decades of war and terrorism but that time is ripe for political dialogue there. We are ready for any kind of cooperation with Iran to address the issue through dialogue, political and diplomatic channels, Imran Khan said. If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be more trade and commerce as well, he noted.
The Pakistani head of government likened the situation in the disputed region with the situation in Palestine, criticizing the Indian forces for pressuring and cracking down on the Kashmir people. There is no military solution for the situation in Kashmir. The situation in Kashmir is like the Palestinian issue. He went on to slam the recent Israeli moves such as recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as its part, or claiming Jerusalem (Quds) as Israeli capital. These decisions violate the international norms and cause instability in the Middle East. Imran khan stressed that his country wants to use the Iranian expertise in healthcare, energy and technology in a bid to further develop bilateral ties.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei received Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday evening. Ayatollah Khamenei met with the Pakistani prime minister and his accompanying delegation, the official website of the Supreme Leader reported. Imran Khan was visiting Tehran for the first time after his election as the Pakistani premier in August 2018.
The visit is taking place on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of establishment of Iran- Pakistan relations. Prior to Tehran, Imran Khan was in the holy city of Mashad on pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Shia Imam. President Hassan Rouhani officially welcomed the Pakistani prime minister on Monday and the two countries’ high-ranking officials are expected to sign a number of cooperation documents. It is pertinent to note here that it first visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the brotherly, neighbouring country since assuming office in August 2018. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Iran in line with government’s approach to meaningfully strengthen its relations with all neighbouring countries. Iran is an important Muslim neighbour having centuries old people to people, religious and cultural affinities with Pakistan.
In Tehran, the Prime Minister held in-depth one-on-one and delegation-level talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and called on the Iranian Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei. This first leadership level interaction between the two sides, enabled strengthening of the mutual understanding on important issues in bilateral, regional and international domains.
Bilaterally, the two sides exchanged views on issues related to Pakistan-Iran border security; facilitation of Pakistani pilgrims and zaireen travelling every year in large numbers to Iran; overcoming hindrances in promotion of bilateral trade and economic activity; opening of new border crossing points, establishment of new border market; enhancing cooperation in energy, consular, health, railways sectors; and promotion of cultural collaboration, tourism and people to people exchanges between the two countries.
In the regional domain, both Pakistan and Iran agreed to join hands for promoting efforts for peace in Afghanistan through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution and evolving a broader regional consensus in this regard. During the visit, Prime Minister also addressed the Pakistani and Iranian business community, highlighting the need for private sector’s proactive role in realizing the full potential of bilateral trade and economic relations.
According to joint statement issued on the conclusion of his visit to Tehran, while emphasizing historical, cultural, religious and civilizational ties between the two neighboring and Muslim countries, and highlighting the commitment of the senior officials of the two countries to expand relations in all areas of mutual interest, the two sides reiterated the importance of deepening and reinforcing bilateral ties based on principles of national interest, territorial integrity and mutual respect for national sovereignty. They called for swift implementation of bilateral agreements as a step towards realizing this important goal.
Both sides highlighted that common borders should be the borders of peace and friendship, and acknowledged the necessity of forging regular cooperation and exchange of views between political, military and security officials of the two countries to combat threats such as terrorism, smuggling of narcotics, human trafficking, hostage-taking, money-laundering and abduction.It was also agreed that the10th Round of the Special Security Committee of the two Ministries of Interior will be held in Islamabad in June 2019 to discuss these matters in detail.
It was also agreed that the next meeting of the Joint Consular Commission would be held on 2nd half of 2019 to review the progress made so far and chart the way forward in further facilitating the movement of people from both sides. Pakistan side welcomed the initiation of the process for release of a number of Pakistani prisoners by the Government of Iran, and for making arrangements for their expeditious repatriation to Pakistan.
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan agreed that enhancing and cementing cooperation between Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan
Iran proposes FTA with Pakistan
Head of Tehran’s Chamber of Commerce Masoud Khansari said on Monday that Iran and Pakistan can barter commodities and sign a free trade agreement as ways to help facilitate trade between the two neighboring countries. Khansari made the remarks during a meeting in Tehran with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Trade and economic ties between Iran and Pakistan which presently stand at around $2 billion is not satisfactory and need to be boosted, Khansari said. The unfair sanctions on Iran overshadowed the relations between Iran and Pakistan over the past years, he added.He, however, noted that the new US sanctions on Iran can open a new gate for the expansion of relations between Tehran and Islamabad. Khansari expressed the hope that different problems, including lack of financial and banking channels, high tariffs and smuggling of goods will be resolved through negotiations held on the sidelines of the Pakistani prime minister’s visit to Iran. The Pakistani prime minister arrived in the Iranian capital for an official visit on Sunday evening. Province and Pakistan’s Balochistan Province including opening of new border crossings and border markets would contribute towards improvement of the economic situation of local residents, and further constitutes a step towards resolving border challenges and insecurities. Both sides agreed to hold the 2nd Round of High Border Commission in Islamabad in May 2019 to review the current status of preparations and further measures required for the earliest opening of new crossing points at Gabd-Reemdan and Mand-Pishin, besides opening of new border markets.
Both sides highlighted the necessity of extending cooperation in energy sector including export of electricity from Iran to Pakistan. Pakistani side extended its appreciation to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for continuing electricity exports to Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.
Reaffirming the importance of strong and historic socio-cultural and linguistic affinities between the two countries and their peoples. Both sides reaffirmed the need to further strengthen these bonds through promotion of academic, cultural and tourism activities, particularly by encouraging more frequent exchange of visits of intellectuals, folk artists, cultural troupes and by enhancing tourism to the historic religious sites in both countries.
Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirmed the support and solidarity of the government and people of Pakistan with the people of Iran over loss of precious human lives and material damages due to recent severe floods in Iran. Prime Minister of Pakistan expressed the conviction that the people of Iran would handle this natural calamity with their characteristic resilience. Iranian side expressed its gratitude to Pakistan for sending humanitarian assistance to the flood affected people in Iran.
Both sides welcomed the signing of a declaration for cooperation in health sector aimed at bilateral technical assistance and experience sharing with tangible outputs.
Considering the increase in volume of trade between the two countries in 2018, the President of Iran and Prime Minister of Pakistan instructed relevant institutions and Ministries to devise all required mechanisms for boosting monetary, financial and commercial activities to their full potential by utilizing all available options. The two sides also decided to hold the 21st round of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC)in the second half of 2019 in Pakistan to deliberate further on these issues.
Both sides discussed and exchanged views on major regional and international issues, and asserted that peace, tranquility and sustainable development are prerequisite for enhancing relations, integrity and synergy among the West Asian countries.
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the UN Charter and international law, in particular the principles of sovereign equality of states, political independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. The two sides reiterated the need for all States to adhere to the rule of law including at the international level. In this context, they expressed serious concerns over unilateral application of measures by any country that are inconsistent with the provisions of international law and the principles of UN Charter.
The President of Iran and Prime Minister of Pakistan, referring to the necessity of establishing a safe, stable and independent Afghanistan for the sake of regional peace and stability, acknowledged the necessity of holding Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace dialogue while calling upon regional countries and the international community to work collectively to end conflict and restore complete peace in the country. Both sides also agreed to join efforts for achieving a broader regional consensus in this regard.
While condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, both sides acknowledged the great achievements of the two countries in combating terrorism and emphasized that efforts to develop regional and international cooperation in preventing and countering terrorism should be redoubled and the root-causes of all types of terrorism in the region identified and addressed.
Considering the importance of developing connectivity and transit corridors in order to accelerate and facilitate bilateral and regional cooperation and trade, both sides welcomed the implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as agreements on establishing the North–South and East–West corridors in Iran.
The President of Iran and Prime Minister of Pakistan welcomed all dimensions of cooperation of the two countries with other states, particularly the six-party Speakers’ Conference in Tehran with the purpose of consolidating cooperation among the regional states. Both sides highlighted the need to resolve the issue of Jammu & Kashmir through dialogue and peaceful means based on the will of the people of that region and in line with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
The President of Iran and Prime Minister of Pakistan emphasized that the right of the people of Palestine to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state should be respected as the key demand of the Muslim states. Both sides also agreed to reinforce endeavors through regional and international arrangements and mechanisms to help Palestinians establish an independent state. Both sides stressed on swift and complete implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by other states considering the full compliance of the Islamic Republic of Iran to its provisions.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan expressed his appreciation to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the warm and generous hospitality extended to the Pakistani delegation, and officially invited H.E. Dr. Hassan Rouhani to visit Pakistan at the earliest convenience. President of Iran accepted the gracious invitation. Dates for the visit will be worked out through diplomatic channels.
Author is an Executive Editor of Mélange int’l Magazine and Secretary Information Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).