Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Javad Zarif on Monday invited Pakistan to participate in Chahbahar seaport project and development of its link with Gwadar Port as he sought to allay concerns over Indian involvement in the Iranian port.
“We offered to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We have also offered Pakistan and China to participate in Chahbahar,” Dr Zarif, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan, said while delivering a lecture at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) that had been held to commemorate 70th anniversary of establishment of Pak-Iran diplomatic relations.
Dr Zarif had earlier held bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif at the Foreign Office and addressed a trade conference. The visiting foreign minister is being accompanied by a large trade delegation from Iran.
Pakistan had always been concerned about Indian involvement in Chahbahar port. These concerns got amplified after Iran last month signed a lease agreement with India, which would give operational control of the port to Pakistan’s eastern neighbor– Chabahar port located in Iran is s few hundred miles west of Balochistan’s Gwadar port– gateway to CPEC.
Emphasizing that both Gwadar and Chahbahar were important projects for development of deprived Eastern and South-eastern Iran and South Western Pakistan, he said that both needed to be linked through sea and land routes for effecting their complementarities.
“We are taking measures to do that and there is an open invitation to Pakistan to participate in that,” the foreign minister said.
Mr Zarif further clarified that Chahbahar port project was not meant to “encircle Pakistan … strangulate anybody”. He twice said Iran would not allow anybody to hurt Pakistan from its territory much like Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against Iran.
He likened Iran’s relations with India to Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia. “Our relations with India, just like Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia, are not against Pakistan as we understand Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia are not against Iran,” the crafty and skilful diplomat said trying to highlight about his country’s concerns.
Dr Zarif also laid out his vision for better ties between Pakistan and Iran, which envisaged realization of long delayed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, establishment of banking ties, signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and making Gwadar and Chahbahar ports complementary.
Tere is a consensus that IP gas project is beneficial for Pakistan’s economy, but still it is frozen on the Pakistani end due to external and internal factors, he said.
During the bilateral talks, a FO statement said: “The Foreign Ministers underlined that as two brotherly neighboring countries Iran and Pakistan would deepen connectivity between the two sister ports of Gwadar and Chahbahar to benefit from their complementarities.”
The two sides decided to expedite operationalization of two new border crossings that was agreed long time ago.
PM Shahid Khakan Abbasi expressed his commitment to work to resolve the issues in implementation of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, including the financing of pipeline infrastructure and the scope of snap back clause.
The prime minister said that Pakistan was working towards realizing its vision of a peaceful and inter-connected region for shared progress and prosperity.
“We believe that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is vital for economic progress of the region and Pakistan and Iran as the two neighboring countries can make important contribution for achieving this objective,” he remarked.
Dr Zarif also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for strengthening border management to prevent illegal cross-border activities.