ISLAMABAD: Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost on Tuesday said that Pakistan and Iran are in talks to re-establish direct air, rail and sea links to boost bilateral trade and people-to-people contacts.
In an exclusive interaction with a select group of journalists at a reception held to observe Nowrouz, the celebrations for the spring season, the ambassador said that Iran wants to take bilateral trade from $1.5 billion to $5 billion as both countries have a huge potential for bilateral trade. After this, he said, there will be a Pakistan-Iran trade exhibition.
Mehdi Hunardoost said that Iran was not under any sanctions from United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) or any other world body and it was unilateral sanctions from the US which he said had no justification.
“The unilateral sanctions by the Americans are illegal. Under UN resolutions, regional cooperation is allowed. We are in the same boat and Chabahar is open for cooperation with Gwadar. We are not under sanctions by the UN and the EU. We never invite new tensions for our brothers. We invite our brothers in all sections for cooperation,” he added.
The ambassador said that he had urged almost all chambers of commerce of Pakistan to move faster as they could grab the Iranian potential. “We can encourage Pakistani entrepreneurs to come and use Iranian markets,” he said and added that Pakistan and Iran are in talks to establish a rail link between Gwadar and Chabahar.
“Iran is ready to construct 80-kilometre-long patch inside its territory. We are also in talks to establish a ferry-line between the two countries. We also want to restore air link and direct fights should be restored between Pakistan and Iran which would be a huge success,” he said.
The ambassador said that in spite of some obstacles like bank transactions, trade had doubled.
“It is not much according to our potential but I am proud of this development. We can put it on jumpstart if impediments are removed,” he added.
He said that Pakistan and Iran can promote their institutional cooperation in a variety of economic, political, security and cultural spheres through a long-term, strategic approach. In this case, he added, incidental events are too minor to affect the relations of these two countries.
FENCING PAK, IRAN BORDER:
The envoy was of the view that Iran supports Pakistan’s decision to fence Pakistan, Iran border and there was a need to also employ border security force.
He said that external factors and third parties should not affect the relations between Iran and Pakistan, and the relations between the two countries must reach its maximum level, both in official, inter-governmental and public tracks. Undoubtedly, he said, mass media plays a very important role in both tracks.
“You know the third party wants to create misunderstandings between the two brothers. So they misuse our borders. Initially, we can fence some selected areas. Terrorism, drug trafficking and smuggling are our common enemies. We both are victims of this menace. Pakistan and Iran are both victims and we need to jointly wage a war against terrorism. Drug trafficking has increased immensely from Afghanistan under US control twice than what it was under Taliban regime,” he said.
Hunardoost hoped the terrorist groups could be eradicated by joint efforts of powerful armies of Pakistan and Iran.
“After decades of the trouble-resulted presence of trans-regional actors and the consequences of their presence; now it is the time to bring the countries of the region back together and facilitate peace and stability by tying our hands together. Convergence and institutional co-operation in the region is the key element for overcoming the conflicts and responding to common concerns,” he added.
IRAN AWAITS VISIT OF PM KHAN:
The ambassador said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had visited Pakistan twice in one year and Iran now awaited Pakistan’s prime minister visit to Iran.
“PM Khan would be our dear guest and we are eagerly waiting for his visit. We know he is very busy these days and we expect he would soon visit Iran. Last two weeks, we had very good developments,” he said.
The envoy said that the two countries have signed Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline which if commissioned could change the face of Pakistan’s economy.
“It can create millions of jobs. Without any pre-conditions, Iran is ready to help Pakistan provide gas on cheapest prices. The project is 99 per cent complete. Through it, we can put an end to the power shortage. Ferry line is also being negotiated. So the sky is the limit if we collaborate,” he concluded.