Pakistan, Iran to rush gasline

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to increase their bilateral trade to $10 billion, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani telling Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad that Islamabad under a policy revamp wants a ‘very close’     relationship with its Islamic neighbour.

During a meeting here at the President’s House Monday the two leaders agreed to give fresh impetus to the existing bilateral relationship in line with their proximity and potential in trade, security and other fields.

PM Gilani said there was a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy and now it wanted to maintain close relations with the neighbours and Iran was one of those countries with which it would like to have ‘very close relations’. He also assured Iranian concerns on the borders will be addressed to their satisfaction.

The Iranian president said three countries of the region – Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – should make coordinated efforts to solve the problems of security and development so that no outside assistance is required by them. He appreciated Pakistan’s keenness to take necessary steps for enhancing cooperation between the two countries, observing that it was because Pakistan had a major role to play in this part of the world.

Gilani agreed with the Ahmadinejad that the Gas Pipeline Project and import of 1,000MW electricity from Iran should be expedited as Pakistan was facing acute energy shortage which is hampering the pace of growth of its economy.

Both the sides committed that they will not spare any effort to boost the trade to the extent of $10 billion. The current volume of trade between the two countries is $1.2 billion, with Pakistan’s exports only at around $200 million. Both sides agreed that it was not possible to realise the immense potential of trade between the two countries without effective communication and transport links.

The prime minister highly appreciated the gesture of Iranian government and people for donating $100 million for rain and flood victims in Pakistan. The Iranian people and government are, indeed, friends of Pakistan, the Prime Minister said.

The Iranian leader agreed to give serious consideration to Pakistan’s demand for opening a Consulate at Bandar Abbas to facilitate people to people contacts. They also agreed in principle for opening a Pakistan cultural centre in Tehran. The Iranian president happily agreed to declare Multan and Rasht (Gilan) as twin town, saying “it’s an honour for us”.

The prime minister disclosed that the two committees, one jointly headed by the foreign ministers and the other security committee headed by interior ministers, will deliberate upon issues on regular basis with a view to making their borders safer and boosting the economic activities and trade between the two countries. Gilani said that the Iranian interior minister would visit Pakistan and he would hold discussions with his counterpart in Islamabad in the context of his instructions that Iranian government’s concerns on the borders of Balochistan, Sistan must be addressed to their satisfaction.

Gilani reaffirmed that Pakistan wanted a sovereign, independent, prosperous and stable Afghanistan and supported a process of reconciliation, which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. He added that his country was part of the solution and not part of problem. He informed that Pakistan suffered casualties of 5,000 its troops and equal number of them were disabled, while it also suffered casualties of 35,000 of its civilians, which is the price Pakistan has paid in the fight against terrorism.

The Iranian president said that the outside powers keep them underdeveloped because they drive their strength from their weaknesses. They keep the countries poor and unstable. “Your development is our development. Your security is our security. If we stay together, we can limit their capacity to hurt us, because their interests are best served by instability.”

PM Gilani said that his government has made it clear to the US government that unilateral action is not acceptable and if they have any credible information, they must pass it on to Pakistan and its security forces will take action on it. He added that he had told the US Secretary of State in clear terms that drone attacks are counter-productive in the war against terrorism and should be stopped.

The Prime Minister said he had twice visited Afghanistan and President Karzai also visited Pakistan to give impetus to the efforts focussed to seek out a solution, acceptable to the Afghan people and to Pakistan, because Pakistan cannot afford the blow-back of the imposed solution, as it was the last time when the country had to give shelter to 3 million Afghan refugees the world has forgotten now.

President Ahmadinejad said, “We should increase people-to-people contacts and cultural cooperation, because we have a lot of commonalities among our people.” The Iranian president urged a new world order based on humanitarian values and justice. “The world is going through transition at a very fast speed and it is imperative that innovative strategy should be evolved and implemented to offset its negative fall-out on our people,” he stressed.

President Ahmadinejad assured Prime Minister Gilani that Pakistan would be given priority in meeting the requirements of Iran and the goods and services which are available in Pakistan would be given preferential treatment. In this regard the Iranian president said that his country would be keen to import food items like wheat, vegetables and fruits in the beginning.

Prime Minister Gilani agreed with the Iranian President that trade between the two countries was grossly incompatible to their geographic location and commonality of heritage, which is an asset and needs to be capitalised on by pursuing policies, formulated after a lot of thinking and efforts. Both the sides favoured to allow their private sectors to play active role in the development of their economies and bottlenecks, if any, should be removed by setting up such a mechanism that measures upto the imperatives of the modern economy.

Earlier on the same day, Prime Minister Gilani and First Vice President of Iran Mohammad Reza Rahimi agreed on steps to increase the relationship of the two states in a range of fields. They also signed agreement to increase the value of their bilateral trade to $10 billion during the meeting.




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