Pakistan, Iran agree to enhance trade volume to $10bn

Muhammad Anis & Asim Yasin & Mumtaz Alvi
Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran Monday agreed to jointly fight menace of terrorism and organised crimes, enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion volume in the next five years, and expressed solidarity for the people of Palestine calling for ceasefire in Gaza.

Addressing a joint press conference after signing of bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs), Iranian President Dr Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi and Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif said the two brotherly countries had agreed to enhance trade ties and promote business activities at the border areas to ensure development and prosperity of the peoples of two countries.

President Raisi, who arrived at Nur Khan airbase on three-day historic visit to Pakistan on Monday, was accorded a red-carpet welcome, said the two countries were determined to fight terrorism and other manifestations of insecurity, which were a threat to the two countries and the region. He said there were a number of common positions and stances between the two countries. “For instance, both countries are determined to fight terrorism, organised crimes, narcotics and different forms and manifestations of insecurity, which endanger our two countries and the region,” he added.

Highlighting brotherly relations between Pakistan and Iran, he said no one could sever Pakistan’s relations with Iran. He said the two nations had historical ties, which were based on religious beliefs and cultural similarities. He said historic and durable relations between the two countries provided them with an opportunity to fully utilise them for welfare and prosperity of the two nations. “It is significant to further broaden bilateral ties for the benefit of the two countries, besides continuing cooperation at the highest level,” he said. “Today, we decided to increase economic, commercial and trader relations. Current volume of trade is not acceptable,” he added.

About sanctions imposed by the Western countries on Iran, he said his country had turned those sanctions into opportunities. President Raisi, while conveying the best regards from the people and the Supreme Leader of Iran to the people of Pakistan, said the great people of Pakistan had always supported the oppressed people of various areas of the world, especially the people of Gaza, and had always been defending Islam and raising their voice for the freedom of Quds Al-Sharif.

“Today, people in different parts of the world are in pain due to current situation in Palestine,” he said adding that the international organisations such as the United Nations and the UN Security Council, which claim to support human rights, could not deliver their core responsibility. President Raisi emphasised that people belonging to all religions across the world including that of Iran and Pakistan were calling for an end to the oppression and barbarism against the people of Palestine. He said that the stance adopted by people around the world and by the Palestinian resistance would surely be realised one day.

PM Shehbaz Sharif said with the support of the Iranian president, the two countries could bring development and prosperity in their respective sides by turning their borders into hub of business activities. “We held detailed discussions on various areas of mutual interests including economy, trade, investment, diplomacy, security and culture,” he explained.

The PM also warmly welcomed the Iranian President in Persian language. “The relations between Pakistan and Iran are not 76 years old, rather ties between peoples of this part of the world and Iran are centuries old,” he added.

The PM, while talking about brotherly relations between the two countries, recited verses of Iranian poet Allama Taqi in Persian, which said: “May Almighty Allah continue blessing onPakistan.” The Iranian president and members of his delegation responded these remarks of the PM with smiles.

PM Shehbaz commended Iran’s firm stand for the Muslims of Gaza, and its condemnation of barbarism, being committed against them, and pledged that Pakistan also fully supported the oppressed people of Gaza. He said the resolution of the UN Security Council on Palestine was being violated. He regretted that over 35,000 people had so far been martyred in Palestine.

The PM called for raising voice at various international forums including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) till complete ceasefire in Gaza. He expressed his gratitude to the Iranian leadership for raising voice for the oppressed people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and said the Kashmir valley had also been turned red with the blood of the oppressed Kashmiris.

The PM thanked the Iranian president for visiting Pakistan, saying he was the first head of state of any country, who visited Pakistan after the February 8 general election. He pointed out that Iran was among the first few countries who recognised Pakistan as an independent state in 1947.

Earlier, during a meeting, President Ebrahim Raisi and PM Shehbaz Sharif discussed entire range of bilateral ties and expressed strong and unequivocal condemnation of indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupation authorities in Gaza for over seven months.

The two leaders reiterated the call for international efforts to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, lifting of the siege and humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza, the PM media wing said in a statement.

They underscored the rich history of relations between Pakistan and Iran and reaffirmed their commitment to expand wide-ranging bilateral cooperation, particularly in the areas of trade, energy, connectivity, culture and people-to-people contacts.

Federal Ministers and senior officials were also present. Both sides agreed to increase the volume of bilateral trade to $10 billion in the next five years, the statement said. They also agreed to cooperate in developing joint approaches to confront common challenges including the threat of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Iran signed eight agreements and MoUs for cooperation in diverse fields. The agreements included cooperation in security, judicial assistance in civil matters and veterinary and animal health.

The two countries signed an MoU for establishment of a special economic zone, whilst another was signed for film exchanges and cooperation between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Organisation of Cinema and Audio-visual Affairs of Iran.

The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Ministry of Cooperatives, Labours and Social Welfare of Iran as well as Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority and National Standards Organisation of Iran also signed MoUs for cooperation. An MoU was also signed on legal cooperation.

The ceremony was witnessed by the Iranian president and the prime minister of Pakistan. Later, President Asif Ali Zardari and visiting Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi held a meeting at Aiwan-e-Sadr and reiterated their resolve to further broaden mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas of common interests. They underscored the need for operationalising bilateral trade mechanisms to boost the volume of trade up to $10 billion.

According to an announcement, released by the President House, the two leaders discussed key regional and global developments, particularly the situation in the Middle East. Both presidents reiterated the need for enhanced international endeavours to bring an end to Israeli suppression of the people of Gaza and for enhanced humanitarian relief and assistance.

President Zardari expressed deep concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and strongly condemned Israel’s military aggression against the people of Gaza that had resulted in the killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians. He assured that Pakistan would consistently and unequivocally support the Palestinian cause.

Zardari said Pakistan and Iran enjoyed close fraternal ties based on shared religion, culture, and history, which needed to be further strengthened for mutual benefit of the two brotherly countries. He thanked Ebrahim Raisi for being the first head of state to visit Pakistan after the general election, which reflected the deep personal commitment of the Iranian president to Pakistan.

President Zardari appreciated Iran’s principled stance and its consistent support to the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and their right to self-determination.

President Ebrahim Raisi emphasised the need for further expanding and consolidating bilateral relations in all areas of mutual interest. He said the interests of the two brotherly countries called for further cementing economic, trade and cultural relations. He highlighted that both countries had enormous potential to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion volume. He appreciated Pakistan’s consistent support for their Palestinian brethren during the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir met visiting President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and described the Pak-Iran border as “the border of peace and friendship”, emphasising the need for improved coordination along the border to prevent terrorists from jeopardising the longstanding brotherly relations between the two neighbouring countries.

The discussion primarily focused on matters of mutual interest notably regional peace, stability, and border security, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. Both sides concurred on the necessity to bolster bilateral cooperation while jointly striving for regional stability and economic prosperity.

President Raisi emphasised that by fostering cooperation between the two armed forces, Pakistan and Iran could attain peace and stability for both nations and the region.

Separately, Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi and Senate Chairman Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Monday stressed the importance of joint efforts to address regional security challenges, including counterterrorism, reaffirming their commitment to dialogue and cooperation in maintaining peace and regional stability.

Both leaders expressed optimism for the future of Pakistan-Iran relations and reiterating their commitment to further strengthening cooperation on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Expressing commitment to enhancing parliamentary cooperation, Gilani underscored the need for greater inter-parliamentary engagements and exchange programmes aimed at bolstering the capacity and expertise of parliamentary staff.

The Senate chairman also stressed the significance of promoting cultural and educational exchanges between the two nations, fostering greater understanding and goodwill among the people, and exploring opportunities for collaboration in education, science, and technology.

The Iranian president appreciated Gilani’s historical link with Iran and acknowledged his spiritual bond.

Meanwhile, Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) Monday welcomed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Pakistan and praised courage of the Iranian government with which it challenged Israel.

“I want to pay tribute to the President of Iran for challenging Israel, which is the biggest terrorist of the world,” the opposition’s chief whip Aamir Dogar said while speaking on a point of order. He said Iran set a role model for rest of the Muslim world.

Syed Naveed Qamar of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), while welcoming Iranian president, said brotherly relations between two countries had always remained, especially from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s era as the prime minister of Pakistan. “As a nation we not only appreciate Iran but consider it our brotherly country,” he said.

Separately, a delegation of Pakistan-Iran Parliamentary Friendship Group, led by Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi here on Monday.

The two sides underlined the significance of collaboration between the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran and the National Assembly of Pakistan both bilaterally and within the framework of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

They agreed to leverage parliamentary platforms to enrich and strengthen bilateral relations and promote people-to-people cooperation.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said Pakistan valued high its historical fraternal relations with Iran and was keen to expand the existing relations by promoting parliamentary and economic ties.

President Raisi said the Pak-Iran ties were more than the traditional and diplomatic relations as the peoples of the two countries were bound in eternal relations of brotherhood, neighbourliness and love. He thanked the people and the government of Pakistan for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his delegation in Pakistan.

MNAs Naveed Qamar, Aoun Chaudhry, Malik Muhammad Amir Dogar, Noor Alam Khan, Sahibzada Hamid Raza, Khalid Hussain Magsi, Chaudhry Salik Hussain, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry were present in the meeting.

According to official sources, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is scheduled to arrive in Lahore on Tuesday (today). During his visit, he will engage with Punjab’s top leadership, including Governor Balighur Rehman and Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, as well as interact with business representatives and traders.

Following his visit to Lahore, President Raisi will proceed to Karachi, where he will pay homage to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at his mausoleum.