News ID: 115205
Publish Date : 19 May 2023 - 23:04

Pakistan, Iran Open First Border Market

TEHRAN — Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday inaugurated the first border market as relations warm between the two countries, officials said.
The marketplace is the first of six to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides.
Sharif and Raisi also inaugurated an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian electricity.
In a televised meeting, Sharif, sitting next to Raisi, assured him Pakistan would do its best to improve security along the Iranian border. He added that both sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties, and extended an invitation to Raisi to visit the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
This is the first visit of its kind since 2013, when the two nations signed an agreement allowing Pakistan to import Iranian gas despite American opposition. Tehran at the time said that “the West has no right to block the project.”
Pakistan has close ties with Saudi Arabia, but has tried to maintain a relationship with Iran. Riyad and Tehran, long-time rivals, restored ties earlier this year in a Chinese-brokered agreement.
On Thursday, Raisi and Sharif addressed a ceremony in a live broadcast from the Iranian side of the more than the 900-kilometer border between the two countries.
Raisi said the project had set the stage for Tehran and Islamabad to expand their economic and energy exchanges.
The transmission line would export 100 megawatts of Iranian electricity to Pakistan’s border province of Baluchistan. The impoverished, natural resources-rich region already imports 100 megawatts of low-cost power from Iran.
“We are fully prepared to further deepen our relations with our neighboring country Pakistan in the energy sector,” the Iranian president said.
Islamabad’s foreign exchange reserves have rapidly declined as the country faces a dire economic crisis. The cash-strapped South Asian nation of about 230 million people depends on energy imports to meet domestic needs.
The marketplace opened by the two countries Thursday links Iran’s southeastern city of Pishin to Pakistan’s southwestern city of Mand.
Raisi said the facilities would help create jobs and boost bilateral “retail trade” to help thousands of households on both sides of the remote, poverty-stricken regions.

“The message of this project is one of security. … Today, both countries see the border as an opportunity and not a threat,” the Iranian president stressed, speaking through an official interpreter.
Sharif said that he had held a formal meeting with Raisi on the sidelines of the inauguration and the two discussed ways to strengthen border security cooperation.
“We have exchanged proposals to make our joint border security mechanism more coherent and robust,” the Pakistani prime minister said.
“I will convene an urgent meeting as soon as I return to Pakistan and we will take appropriate, effective steps in the light of your proposals,” Sharif told Raisi without elaborating.
Both Raisi and Sharif said they were happy with the state of “brotherly and friendly” relations between Iran and Pakistan although they insisted cooperation between the two should expand.
“Today, the determination of Iran and Pakistan is that the level of their relations should be elevated from what they have now,” said Raisi in a joint press conference with Sharif.
Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement in 1990 to construct a nearly 2,700-kilometer gas pipeline to export Iranian gas to the energy-deficient South Asian neighboring country. But U.S. sanctions on Tehran blocked any progress of the project.
Iranian officials maintain they have finished construction of the pipeline on their side of the border and are waiting for Pakistan to complete its part, saying a lack of progress by next year would entitle Tehran to demand financial penalties.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reiterated Thursday her country remains committed to the pipeline project.
“Pakistan considers the Iran-Pakistan pipeline as an important project that symbolizes the friendship between Pakistan and our neighbor, Iran,” Baloch told a news conference in Islamabad when asked to comment on the reported multibillion-dollar penalty facing her country.
She said talks with Iranian officials on “some issues” about the pipeline’s completion continued, adding that “it is premature for me to comment on anything that could happen several months from now.”