Iran can play a role in the implementation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), whereas Pakistan and China can invest in developing Chabahar Port in south Iran, said the Iranian minister of foreign affairs.
This is because by promoting economic development in that area which has been the source of extremism, poverty, radicalism and terrorism in both Iran and Pakistan, the life of the people in that neighborhood and the wellbeing of the two nations can be improved, added Mohammad Javad Zarif on the third and final day of his visit to Pakistan.
Speaking at Iran-Pakistan Business Forums in the south Indian port city of Karachi, Zarif said, “Then we can move from this situation of underdevelopment and disenfranchisement to a situation of prosperity and growth which would lead to moderation and [greater] participation in the economic activities of both countries.
“Some people think that the projects Iran and Pakistan are implementing in the ports of Chabahar and Gwadar are competitive. We believe Gwadar, Chabahar and Karachi can complement each other.”
Zarif said Iran and Pakistan are celebrating 70 years of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“We in Iran are very proud to have been the first country to recognize Pakistan. But the length of our bilateral diplomatic relations, while the longest among any bilateral relations that Pakistan has, is nothing comparable to the length of the relations between our two peoples.”
Iranian and Pakistani people love each other, cherish each other and have backed each other through millennia and will continue be supporting one another at all times, Zarif said.
For Iran, Pakistan is not just a neighbor or a friend, but an emotional attachment, he added.
Iran will never allow any country to use it or its territory to take any action against Pakistan, the minister stressed.
“We are confident that Pakistan will also never allow anybody to take action against Iran. Brothers and sisters, we have close affinity in many areas. We are bound together by religion, history and culture. We cherish the personalities of each other.”
The historical bond between the two countries is unbreakable, he said, adding, “But we need to do much more in order to cement this historical ties with economic relations. The two countries can engage in a whole range of economic areas. Iran can be a reliable source of energy for Pakistan. We have gas and electricity. We can produce energy and provide it to Pakistan.”
Shifting to Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, he said Iran has invested $2 billion in the project almost bringing the pipeline to the Pakistani border, hoping that the Pakistani side would be able to complete its part of the project.
“Today, we are providing 104 megawatts of electricity to Pakistan”, Zarif said, adding Iran is prepared to increase the figure to 1000 megawatts immediately, and 3,000 megawatts which has been approved by the cabinet of Pakistan within any period of time after we reach an agreement.
Commenting on the bottlenecks on the way of raising trade between the two sides, he noted that a lack of banking channels is a main problem.
Iran and Pakistan already have an agreement to use their national currencies for trade, Zarif said, adding this agreement needs to be implemented.
There are Iranian banks willing to establish their offices in Pakistan, added, hoping that Pakistani banks would also be prepared to establish offices in Iran.
“We also need to move beyond the preferential trade agreement that we already have with Pakistan to a free trade agreement between the two countries. There are some tariff and non-tariff barriers to cooperation between Iran and Pakistan.”
Efforts are needed to remove them, he said.
After arriving in Karachi, prior to attending the forum, Zarif visited the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to pay tribute to the founder of Pakistan.
Iran, Pakistan manage their issues
In a morning meeting with retired General Nasser Khan Janjua, the national security advisor of Pakistan, Janjua lauded the two countries’ good relationship, and stressed that what is of the utmost importance in Iran-Pakistan ties is that the two states stand by each other and manage their issues.
Zarif stressed Tehran’s willingness to further expand relations with Islamabad.
The two sides also called for expanding mutual security cooperation and more effective protection of the borders.
The two top officials also discussed the holding of the meeting of the security and consular committees, making optimum use of Chabahar and Gwadar ports in Iran and Pakistan respectively with the aim of enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries, exploring and identifying ways to increase bilateral banking cooperation and accelerate completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, fostering multilateral collaborations, solving a number of regional issues and fighting terrorism, particularly, the Daesh.
In Zarif’s meeting with Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the two sides held comprehensive talks on regional and bilateral issues.
They also urged expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries.
In all of his meetings with Pakistani officials, Zarif requested them to undertake efforts to help free the Iranian soldier held captive by Jaish-ul-Adl terrorist group so that he can return to his family.
The Pakistani officials all promised to cooperate to this end.
On Monday, Zarif attended a ceremony at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Iran and Pakistan.
Addressing the attendees, he said Iran and Pakistan have longstanding diplomatic relations dating back to 70 years ago.
The minister added that the relations between the people of the two countries, going back to centuries ago, are much deeper than the two states’ diplomatic ties.
He stressed that the relationship between the two peoples are rooted in their common history, culture and values as well as a kinship that is unbreakable.
Difficulties, ups and downs and political issues have never been able to and will never break the ties between the people of Iran and Pakistan.
“Iran and Pakistan have been able to establish strong political ties. We never forget that Pakistan has always been on our side during difficulties. And we know that our Pakistani brothers and sisters do not forget that Iran was on their side when their country needed a friend, a neighbor and a brother.”
The two countries seek to establish even stronger economic, political, cultural and people-to-people ties, the minister said.
He listed important prospects for furthering the two countries’ bilateral relations as the Iran-Pakistan pipeline which can come to fruition through the common efforts of both nations, the banking relations between the two states which will remove hurdles to the expansion of bilateral trade, the preferential trade agreement between Iran and Pakistan which will move toward free trade agreement between the two counties and making the two big projects currently underway in Iran and Pakistan, the development of Chabahar and Gwadar ports, complementary, and not competing, ventures.
He said the strengthening of mutual relations is in the interest of the two countries’ people, peace and security in the region and prosperity and fighting extremism and terrorism which find fertile grounds in poverty and underdevelopment.
Zarif said the two countries, as two Muslim nations, have a bigger task to accomplish which is working together to change the paradigm of relations that today exists in the Islamic world.
“We have suffered in the region in particular, and in the Muslim world in general, from a paradigm of exclusion, rivalry and dependence on outside sources.