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Friday, May 31, 2024  
22 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Pakistan, Iran agree to boost bilateral trade volume to $10b in next five years

Both countries sign eight accords to strengthen bilateral cooperation in multiple sectors
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID
Iranian delegation led by President Ebrahim Raisi holds talks with Pakistani delegation led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID
Iranian delegation led by President Ebrahim Raisi holds talks with Pakistani delegation led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar and Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili sign an agreement to promote film exchange and cinema cooperation between the two countries in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar and Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili sign an agreement to promote film exchange and cinema cooperation between the two countries in Islamabad on April 22, 2024. PID

Iran and Pakistan agreed on Monday to enhance the bilateral trade volume to $10 billion in the next five years, as Ebrahim Raisi commenced a three-day visit to the country amid tight security in Islamabad.

“Both sides agreed to increase the volume of bilateral trade to 10 billion US dollars in the next five years,” PM Sharif’s office said in a statement after a joint news briefing.

The visit comes as the two Muslim neighbours seek to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes this year.

“They also agreed to cooperate in developing joint approaches to confront common challenges including the threat of terrorism,” the statement said.

At the joint press conference, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stressed the need for boosting trade with Pakistan and said that the current level of trade volume was below the existing potential.

“We are committed to strengthening relations at high levels. […] Economic and trade volume between Iran and Pakistan is not acceptable at all. We have decided as a first step to increase the trade volume between our two countries to $10bn,” he said.

Official figures for current annual trade were not available. Business Recorder, citing Iran’s then-ambassador to Pakistan, last year reported bilateral trade worth over $2 billion.

Raisi, who was accompanied by a delegation that included the country’s foreign minister and cabinet members, will next visit Lahore and Karachi. Administrations of both cities have declared a local holiday on Tuesday (tomorrow) in view of the visit.

Major highways in Islamabad were blocked as part of security measures for Raisi’s arrival.

While Raisi’s visit is a key step towards normalising ties with Islamabad, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on state matters such as nuclear policy.

“They also agreed to cooperate in developing joint approaches to confront common challenges including the threat of terrorism,” the statement said.

Boosting ties and Gaza situation

PM Shehbaz and Iran’s President Raisi also witnessed the signing of bilateral agreements and MoUs at the PM House.

He said during their meeting, the two sides held detailed discussions on various fields of mutual interests including economy, trade, investment, diplomacy, security and culture.

Raisi called for steps to enhance border markets to spur business and trade activities at the border areas, besides enhancing security.

The two countries shared common affinities and no one could separate them, he said and added that the two sides in their meetings, decided to further promote the bilateral ties between the two countries in trade and economic sectors.

The Iranian president highlighted that there were several common issues, including terrorism and stressed the need for efforts and enhancing cooperation to curb organised crimes and smuggling.

Raisi conveyed the best regards from the people and the supreme leader of Iran to the people of Pakistan, saying the “great people” of Pakistan had always been supporting 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.

Tensions have also been high in the Middle East after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel a week ago and central Iran in turn suffered what sources said was an Israeli attack on Friday.

PM Shehbaz commended Iran’s robust stand for the Muslims of Gaza and the barbarism being committed against them, saying that “Pakistan in this regard also fully support the oppressed people of Gaza.”

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He said the resolution of the UN Security Council with respect to Palestine was being violated. He regretted that over 35,000 people had so far been martyred in Palestine.

He also called for raising his voice at various international forums including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation till a complete ceasefire in Gaza. At the same time, the prime minister said the Kashmir valley had also been turned to red by the blood of the oppressed Kashmiris.

Signing of MoUs

The two countries signed a total of eight accords on varying subjects to enhance cooperation in the different fields including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters.

List of areas in which agreements were signed

  • Establishment of the Rimdan-Gabd Joint Free/Special Zone.
  • Mutual Recognition of the Standard of Iran and Pakistan
  • Cooperation between the Ministry of Cooperative Labour and Social Welfare of Iran and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resources Development of Pakistan
  • Judicial Assistance in Civil Matters
  • Agreement of Cooperation on Animal Hygiene and Health
  • Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) in the Field of Quarantine and Phytosanitary
  • Legal Cooperation between the law ministries of the two countries
  • Promoting film exchange and cinema cooperation

The signing ceremony also marked the ratification of a security cooperation agreement between the governments of two countries.

PM Shehbaz, Raisi plant sapling to mark Earth Day

PM Shehbaz and Iranian President Raisi have planted a sapling on the lawn of the Prime Minister’s House to mark the annual Earth Day.

Both the dignitaries planted the sapling of Chir pine, also known as Pinus roxburghii – a hardy species native to the Himalayas.

Raisi meets his Pakistani counterpart

President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he was honoured to welcome his Iranian counterpart on his arrival at the President’s House.

“We expressed satisfaction at the trajectory of bilateral ties and agreed to further strengthen our dialogue and cooperation to reinforce existing ties,” a post on the official X account of the President of Pakistan said.

Background

Pakistan and Iran have had a history of rocky relations despite a number of commercial pacts, with Islamabad being historically closer to Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Their highest-profile agreement is a stalled gas supply deal signed in 2010 to build a pipeline from Iran’s South Fars gas field to Pakistan’s southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh.

Despite Pakistan’s dire need of gas, Islamabad has yet to begin construction of its part of the pipeline, citing fears over US sanctions - a concern Tehran has rejected.

Pakistan said it would seek waivers from the US, but Washington has said it does not support the project and warned of the risk of sanctions in doing business with Tehran.

Despite facing possible contract breach penalties running into the billions of dollars, Islamabad recently gave the go-ahead for construction of an 80-km (50-mile) stretch of the pipeline.

He further said that Pakistan and Iran were bound by common religion, history and culture.

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Pakistan

Iran

Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian president