News ID: 126534
Publish Date : 22 April 2024 - 21:51

Promoting Iran-Pakistan Ties at All Levels

ISLAMABAD (Dispatches) -- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday Islamabad and Tehran had committed to strengthening bilateral relations across political, economic, trade, and cultural domains through the signing of eight accords and memorandums of agreement.
Raisi arrived here on a three-day visit, accompanied by a high-level delegation of cabinet members and businesspersons.
The Iranian president was presented with a guard of honor by a Pakistan army contingent upon his arrival at the Prime Minister’s House. He subsequently held meetings with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. 
The MoUs and agreements cover different fields including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters. They include an MoU on the establishment of the Rimdan-Gabd joint free/special zone; cooperation between the ministry of cooperative labor and social welfare of Iran and the ministry of overseas Pakistani and human resources development of Pakistan; on judicial assistance and legal cooperation at the ministry levels; on cooperation for animal hygiene and health; on mutual recognition in the field of quarantine and phytosanitary; and on the promotion of culture and films. 
The signing ceremony also marked the ratification of a security cooperation agreement between the governments of two countries.
“Today in our meeting with [Pakistani] prime minister, and other members of the respective cabinet, we decided to promote the bilateral relations between the two countries at political, economic, trade, culture, including others, at all levels as far as possible,” Raisi said at a joint press stakeout with Pakistani premier Sharif. 
The Iranian president said both countries were committed to combating terrorism, organized crime, narcotics, and various forms of insecurity that threatened not only the neighbors but the wider region.
“There are a number of common positions and stance between our two countries when it comes, for instance, to fighting against terrorism,” he said, adding that Iran and Pakistan shared a lengthy common border, which presented an opportunity to create and bring about welfare for the people residing in border areas and regions.
“The economic and trade volume between Iran and Pakistan is not acceptable at all and we have decided at the first step to increase the trade volume between our two countries to $10 billion,” Raisi added.
Speaking at the press conference, Sharif said both countries collectively needed to work to strengthen bilateral relations, transforming their shared border into a “beacon of development and prosperity.”
“Today presents an opportunity to forge our friendship into a catalyst for progress and prosperity and the decisions made today regarding economic progress and connectivity will yield visible results,” the prime minister said.
He also commended the “resolute stance” taken by the Iranian nation against Israeli actions in Gaza, where more than 34,000 people have been martyred in Israeli air and ground invasion since Oct. 7. Sharif called on Iran and Pakistan to unite at the OIC and other international forums alongside fellow Islamic nations to push for a complete ceasefire.
During his visit from April 22-24, the Iranian president would also meet the Pakistani president, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker. He will also visit the cities of Karachi and Lahore to meet the country’s provincial leadership.
Raisi’s visit is the first by any head of state to Pakistan after the South Asian nation’s contentious elections of February 2024 and the formation of a new government headed by Sharif. The visit also comes as tensions are high in the Middle East after Iran launched airstrikes on Israel a week ago. 
Pakistan and Iran have a number of commercial pacts. Their highest profile agreement is a stalled gas supply deal signed in 2010 to build a pipeline from Iran’s South Fars gas field to Pakistan’s southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.
Former diplomat Naghmana Hashmi said the Iranian president’s visit with a large delegation indicated that both countries had put aside “all sources of irritation,” particularly the recent border skirmishes.
“He is also visiting the commercial centers like Lahore and Karachi, which absolutely is a very clear signal that we want to take the economic relationship that the two countries have, to greater heights, and to increase the flow of trade, to encourage the barter trade and the border markets that we have recently established,” she told Arab News.
Hashmi added that both countries were important forces for peace and security in the region.

“At the time when Iran’s tension with the Israel is at its peak, for the president of Iran to come to Pakistan shows his confidence, both as a leader and as a nation, on us being a good neighbor and they consider Pakistan as their great friend,” she added.
Former Pakistani ambassador to Iran, Riffat Masood, said Raisi’s visit was important in the backdrop of recent hostilities between Israel and Iran.
“And, of course, when the leadership of the two countries meet, they will definitely discuss the way forward in trying to bring an end to or at least reduce the hostilities,” she told Arab News.
She said Raisi’s visit would also further enhance security and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iran.
“The recent border issues are not expected to have a significant impact,” Masood said, “as both countries swiftly addressed them before any negative consequences could affect bilateral relations.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, in line with the neighborhood policy … is interested in promoting relations with Pakistan and during this trip, various issues including economic and commercial issues, energy and border issues will be discussed with the government of Pakistan,” a statement by the Iranian presidential office said.
In a statement, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs called for improving bilateral ties.
“The two sides will have a wide-ranging agenda to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields including trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” the statement said.
Foreign policy analysts in Pakistan have backed re-engagement with Iran.
“Pakistan has troubled borders with India as well as with Afghanistan. And therefore, to have a normal, stable relationship with Iran has been of utmost importance for Pakistan, and it remains so,” veteran Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi told Al Jazeera.
Islamabad and Tehran have been aiming to boost bilateral trade, which currently stands at more than $2 billion.
Muhammad Faisal, a PhD Scholar at the University of Technology Sydney who specializes in Pakistan’s foreign policy, told Al Jazeera that there is a sizable informal trade between the two countries, including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and crude oil. He added that Iran also provides electricity to Balochistan province and other border areas in Pakistan.
In May 2023, Sharif and Raisi inaugurated the first border market at the Mand-Pishin border crossing.
Moreover, the two neighbors have close cultural and religious ties, with tens of thousands of Shia minority people from Pakistan going to Iran every year on pilgrimage.