Muslim Ummah must enhance trade & economic cooperation to cap resources’ outflow

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The cordial relations between Pakistan and Iran have huge potential for further growth to new heights. Though Pakistan-Iran relations began with the emergence of Pakistan in 1947, the people of the two countries can trace their close cultural relations to the medieval times when the Persian language was the court language under the Mogul rule of South Asia. Persian language in those days was the language of knowledge and culture in this part of the world. After Pakistan gained its independence in August 1947, Iran was the first country to recognize its sovereign status. Iran supported Pakistan in its conflicts with India and has always supported it over its stand on Kashmir. Iran’s support to Pakistan during the war against India in 1965 was highly valuable.

Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost is a serene but dynamic personality which always remains visible at almost all the key national and diplomatic events in Islamabad. He is also very popular among Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats as well as strategic circles. In other words he is thorough professional diplomat who executes his duties whole heartedly but humbly.Soon after the general elections in Pakistan, he was very active in extending felicitations to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on winning July 25 polls and expressed Iranian readiness to enhance cooperation with the government-in-waiting. He graced a request moved by Melange, International Magazine, for an exclusive interview. Some of the extracts of the interview are given below for the interest of our worthy readers.

Q: Kindly comment on the nature of bilateral ties between Pakistan and Iran?
Ans: The history of bilateral relations is free of any conflict or tension that shows the natural friendship and understand between both the states so Pakistan and Iran are like family members but the hidden powers are always in action to sabotage this brotherly relation. Muslim Ummah is looking towards Pakistan and Iran to lead it out of the vulnerable conditions but we can do this when we are in long, uninterrupted and good relations. Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei always stressed for enhanced ties with Pakistan. We cannot leave ourselves on the mercy of our enemies, we have to do at our own. Allama Iqbal is famous in Iran more than Pakistan. People-to-people contact is more important than government-to-government contact. By knowing the responsibilities of both sides, we can make our relations stronger and more prosperous.

Q: Which are hurdles in the bilateral ties of both the countries?
Ans: There is nothing problematic in Pak-Iran relations and both countries can have more cooperative and useful relations. Pakistan and Iran were strategic partners and brotherly Islamic countries who enjoyed decades-old ties. Some miscreant elements were carrying out cross-border attacks along the Pak-Iran border to hamper the brotherly ties. We would not allow such elements to affect our historic relations. We will never allow anyone to misuse our territory against our brother Pakistan. Foreign forces are responsible for the worst circumstances in our region and other Muslim countries. They are responsible for the crisis in Syria, Yemen and the other Muslim countries. Our enemies are laughing at us and we are busy in our internal rifts. We have to answer Allah, how we will be able to respond Prophet PBUH about our roles and responsibilities about other Muslims. The Muslim world has to rethink about its unity that can secure Muslims all around.

Q: How would you like to comment on existing trade cooperation between Pakistan and Iran?
Ans: Trade between the two countries has been growing over the years; the bilateral trade volume between the two states has reached up to $1.3 billion from $500 million in the past two years; it can be multiplied many times with bilateral efforts and understanding. Iranian exports to Pakistan were $ 931 million while Pakistani exports to Iran recorded at $ 392 million in 2018. Iranian major exports items include Bitumen, LPG, Dried Nuts, Chocolate ,Tile and others while Pakistani major exportable products include Rice, Sesame, meat, fresh Fruits and others.
Q: How would you like to comment on possibility of bilateral cooperation in energy sector between Iran and Pakistan?
Ans: Iran has the capability to provide up to 3000 MW electricity to Pakistan. There is problem on Pakistan side because the import of such big quantity of electricity required robust transmission system, which requires a lot of investment. The payment to outside suppliers for such big quantity of power is another issue. Iran is ready to provide as much as electricity Pakistan needs but we have some constraints which stop us from making the deal. Iran was earlier importing 73 MW electricity to Pakistan to meet the demand of the border areas of Balochistan, however during past two years the import of electricity has been increased to 100MW. First agreement between Pakistan and Iran for import of 34MW electricity was reached in 2002, which was increased to 73MW and now again it has been increased to more than 100MW. Now Tehran has offered the supply of more electricity. Now both the countries are ready to hold negotiations on renewal of agreement for 100MW electricity import to Balochistan.

Q: How would you evaluate the potential of religious tourism between Pakistan and Iran?
Ans: Both the countries possess immense potential of religious tourism and this potential needs to be further explored. Around one million Pakistani pilgrims annually travel to Iran to visit the holy shrines of family members of the Holy Prophet. Tehran and Islamabad have put in a great deal of effort to facilitate air and land traveling to Mashhad, Iran and Pakistan, in addition to having common borders, have many cultural heritage such as language, rituals and traditions in common. An unprecedented surge in religious tourism between Pakistan and Iran is witnessed during the months of Muharram and Safar. Mashhad, which embraces more than 900 hotels, apartment hotels and guest houses, is the prime destination for Pakistani travelers who come to go on pilgrimage to the shrine of the eighth Imam.

Q: Kindly give some input on China Pakistan Economic Corridor especially regarding addition of Saudi Arabia to CPEC?
Ans: CPEC is not just a trade or business project, it offers a platform to the regional countries to get united therefore Tehran has no objection over the inclusion of any country in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. We welcome investment in Pakistan as Muslim countries must get united and foil the conspiracies being hatched against them. Why money from the pocket of Muslim countries flies to the pockets of western countries. The Muslim world must increase its trade cooperation, so that we can avoid giving our money to foreigners. Money earned by means of smuggling directly goes into the pockets of terrorists, we can control terrorism by controlling smuggling.

Q: Kindly comment on possibility of new bloc; Pakistan, Iran and Turkey?
Ans: Iran and Pakistan as two important neighbours in the region must make more efforts to enhance mutual cooperation. Cooperation among important regional countries like Iran, Pakistan and Turkey can create a great alliance in this geopolitical and sensitive region with huge material and human resources. What is important in geopolitics of Pakistan is its role in regional considerations and the foreign policy of the country is based upon this.