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Stronger ties with Iran

AS an outcome of two-day visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran, the leadership of the two countries has reiterated the importance of deepening and reinforcing bilateral ties based on principles of national interest, territorial integrity and mutual respect for national sovereignty. In the backdrop of some irritants in bilateral relations, the two sides highlighted that common borders should be the borders of peace and friendship, and acknowledged the necessity of forging regular cooperation and exchange of views to combat threats such as terrorism, smuggling of narcotics, human trafficking, hostage-taking, money-laundering and abduction.
The joint statement issued after the visit provides good foundation for taking the bilateral cooperation to new heights to the mutual advantage. However, there are some practical difficulties that hinder meaningful progress even on issues and matters on which the two countries have repeatedly identified to forge stronger linkages. Iran, of course, is somewhat heavily sanctioned country because of hostile attitude of the United States at the instance of Israel and therefore, there are limits to cooperation. But it is also a fact that despite sanctions, many countries of the world have closer and substantial trade ties with Iran. Unfortunately, Pakistan and Iran could not realize the full potential of bilateral trade and investment because of lacklustre attitude of policy-makers in Tehran. Bilateral understanding, Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements take their own time to be transformed into practical measures but this is particularly so in the case of Iran, which adopts extraordinarily cautious approach and as a consequence implementation is delayed for months and years. Smuggling is another hindrance in promoting formal business and trade linkages as Iranians are least interested to check smugglers and Pakistan cannot monitor the porous border effectively. There are also undue restrictions and curbs on import of goods from Pakistan despite the fact that proximity could benefit the traders and people of the two countries. It is also a known fact that some hostile agencies are at work in Balochistan and are engaged in activities that create friction in bilateral relations. Their activities need to be checked. Pakistanis are, indeed, grateful to Iran for reiterating once again its steadfast support for Pakistan’s principled position on Kashmir dispute and demanding its resolution in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiris. We hope that the two sides would continue mutual consultations aggressively and take speedy measures to implement understanding for cooperation in different spheres of life.