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Analysis

Economy, Counterterrorism Fight, Two Pivotal Parts of Iran-Pakistan Partnership

Saturday 5 August 2023
Economy, Counterterrorism Fight, Two Pivotal Parts of Iran-Pakistan Partnership

Related Content

Iran, Pakistan Increased Annual Trade to $2.3 Billion: Amir-Abdollahian

Death Toll in Pakistan Mosque Bombing Rises to 90

Alwaght- Iran's incumbent government, headed by President Sayyed Ibrahim, has put expansion of ties with neighbors top on its foreign policy agenda, and so far has mobilized all its diplomatic capacities to boost regional trade and economic cooperation. President Raeisi recently has sent Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdullahian to another neighbor under a new mission. 

In a three-day trip to Pakistan, FM Amir-Abdullahian talked to senior Pakistani officials on various bilateral and regional issues. On Thursday, he discussed with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expansion of economic ties especially over the border. They stressed the importance of bilateral Tehran-Islamabad cooperation in trade and participation in regional peace and stability. 

The FM’s diplomacy in Islamabad mainly revolved around economy, and reports suggested that good agreements have been reached. In a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Amir-Abdullahian said: "Iran and Pakistan are determined to turn the borders of the two countries into a place of trade and movement and double the volume of trade to $5 billion.”

Currently, the trade between the two countries is $2.3 billion, which will grow in the future as roadmaps are drawn. 

During the negotiations between the two FMs, 5-year strategic trade partnership plan for 2023 to 2028 was inked. Also, the document of the third session of the Joint Investment Committee of Iran and Pakistan and the protocol of economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries were signed by relevant officials in the presence of two top diplomats. 

Hopes for reviving Peace Pipeline 

There is a sticking point in the economic relations between the two countries that the two sides discussed during Amir-Abdullahian’s visit: The Peace Pipeline. 

“We had important discussions regarding the Peace Pipeline gas project and we consider the completion of this pipeline between Iran and Pakistan to be in line with the interests of the two nations. We are ready for this pipeline to pass its final stages as soon as possible,” said Amir-Abdullahian. 

He further said that Iran and Pakistani economies complement each other, adding: “For example, Pakistan can supply Iran's needs in the agricultural sector, and Iran can meet Pakistan's energy needs. For this reason, Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline has been extended by the Iranian government to the borders of Pakistan, and Iran's power supplies to Pakistan have also increased.” 

It is noteworthy that Peace Pipeline was planned to transfer Iranian gas to Pakistan and India. According to an agreement in 2013, Iran committed to supply gas to the two countries for 25 years at agreed prices and Islamabad was planned to complete its part by 2014. However, due to the US pressures and under the excuse that the pipeline violates Iran sanctions, its construction was halted. 

Iran has so far invested $2 billion in this pipeline and asked Pakistan to build a part of this project in its territory by March 2024 or pay $18 billion in compensation. For the implementation of this project, Pakistan must build 781 kilometers of pipeline from Nawabshah city in south of the country to its border point with Iran. Cash-strapped Pakistan sent a delegation to Washington in March to plead with the US government to allow Islamabad to build the pipeline or help pay the damage money to Iran. 

Pakistani media reported at the time that Washington was still considering the request, but had not yet responded to it. Washington does not tolerate completion of this pipeline, which will bring a lot of revenues to Iran, and does not seem to agree to Pakistan's request. If Islamabad completes this pipeline, by transferring gas from Pakistan and India, they will be able to meet part of their gas needs through Iran, and Tehran can reverse part of the effects of the American sanctions.

Setting up border markets and developing railway corridors 

900-kilometer common border provides a good opportunity for establishing border markets, and the two countries have already reached agreements in this regard. In his meeting with Zardari, Amir-Abdullahian said: “We discussed some of the existing obstacles and financial and banking problems and their solutions within the framework of international law. Iran and Pakistan are determined to distance from the security status of the borders of the two countries and turn them into commercial and economic borders. We are ready to create a special economic and free zone at the border point of Rimdan.” 

For his part, Pakistani FM stated that the two countries have agreed to prioritize the implementation of the five remaining border markets by the end of this year, adding: "Both countries highlighted their commitment to share their borders in peace and friendship.” 

Border markets are among the goals administration of President Raeisi has put on its agenda, and earlier it cooperated with Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, and Turkmenistan on them. With establishment of these markets on the border with Pakistan, bilateral trade and investment is expected to flourish. Given the fact that the border cities of the two countries are considered deprived areas, the reopening of these markets can help generate income and business prosperity and prevent the smuggling of goods by profiteers. 

Boosting railway corridors between the two countries was also on top of the issues Amir-Abdullahian raised with Pakistani officials. 

“Efforts have been made to utilize the existing capacities for the development of bilateral and regional cooperation in the field of transportation and transit.... We and Pakistan agree that we should activate some formats of regional cooperation in the fields of trade, economy and fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.” 

Transit routes have become increasingly important for regional states in recent years, and Iran plays an important role in trade between East and West due to its location on the confluence of their transportation corridors. Pakistan and Iran, which are part of China's Road and Belt Initiative (RBI) and are also parties to the railway projects of Central Asia to the Indian Ocean and the Caspian Sea, can have much to say in world trade by strengthening their rail infrastructures, and they have already made arrangements in this sector. 

In his meeting with Pakistan Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjarani, Amir-Abdullahian said the two sides agreed to conclude the prisoner swap and also illegal trespassers between the two countries, and consular officials will follow up seriously until a conclusion is reached. 

After meeting with officials in Islamabad, the FM headed to Karachi, and in this business city he met and talked with local government officials and Iranians living in this city. Amir-Abdullahian also gave a speech to the businessmen of Karachi, with the focal point of his speech being developing business cooperation and increasing the capabilities and economic infrastructure of the two countries. 

Terrorism, the common concern 

Given their lengthy common borders, protection of security of the borders has always been a key case of cooperation of Iran and Pakistan, and during the visit, Amir-Abdullahian discussed it with Pakistani security officials. In his meeting with army chief General Asem Munir, the Iranian FM pointed to his meetings and agreements, especially on security matters, with top Pakistani officials, adding that “we have support of the Pakistani army to these agreements, and certainly it is decisive in faster implementation of these agreements.” 

Referring to the importance of the achievements of the Pakistani army chief's visit to Iran two weeks ago, the FM said that the agreements he made with Iran's Chief of General Staff General Ali Bagheri on security and borders open a new chapter in the partnership of the two countries. He also voiced the readiness of the Islamic Republic for implementation of the agreements as soon as possible. 

For his part, General Asim Munir stated: "Our fight against terrorism is serious. We consider Iran's security as our security and we are very serious in cooperating with our brother country, Iran, in the fight against terrorism.” 

The meeting comes as in recent months, Iran-Pakistan borders have been a scene of deadly clashes and a number of Iranian border guards were killed by Pakistan-based terrorists. 

Tehran has repeatedly urged Islamabad to take further measures to destroy hideouts of the terrorists taking refuge on its soil, but Pakistan’s negligence helps these groups trespass Iranian borders and cause insecurity occasionally. Pakistan itself is not immune to terrorism and this is a shared challenge. ISIS and Tahreek-e-Taliban terrorist groups have several times carried out terrorist operations in various Pakistani cities. 

Last weeks, ISIS launched an attack on a gathering of an Islamist movement in northwestern Bajaur district, killing 60 and injuring 200. In a phone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart, Amir-Abdullahian condemned the attack, saying that fighting extremism is a common Iranian-Pakistani security obsession. Therefore, augmentation of security cooperation will yield more secure borders and this, in turn, will produce bilateral trade prosperity. 

Tags :

Iran Pakistan Trade Terrorism Amir-Abdullahian

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