Pak-Iran ties: Paradigm shift in foreign policy, says Prime Minister
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday exchanged views to give afresh impetus to their existing bilateral co-operation in various fields ranging from trade and economy to security and intelligence sharing.
Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2011
During the meeting here at the President House, the two leaders said that increase in collaboration between the two countries is important to enhancing trade volume compatible with their proximity and potential. The Iranian President said three countries of the region - Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - should make co-ordinated efforts to solve the problems of security and development so that no outside assistance is required by them.
The Prime Minister disclosed that the two Committees, one jointly headed by the Foreign Ministers and the other Security Committee headed by Interior Ministers of the two countries, 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.
The Prime Minister 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.
Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad said the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was very keen to take necessary steps to enhance co-operation between the two countries because Pakistan had a major role to play in this part of the world. Prime Minister 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.
The Prime Minister agreed with the Iranian President that the Gas Pipeline Project and import of 1000 MW electricity from Iran should be expedited as Pakistan was facing acute energy shortage. 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.
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 committed that they will not spare any effort to boost the trade to the extent of US $10 billion. The current volume of trade between the two countries is US $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 urged for the up-gradation of rail, road and air links between the two countries. He highly appreciated the gesture of Iranian government and people for donating US $100 million for rain and flood victims in Pakistan. The Iranian people and government are, indeed, friends of Pakistan, the Prime Minister said.
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. The Prime Minister added that his country was part of the solution and not part of problem. He said that Pakistan suffered casualties of 5000 of 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.
Prime Minister 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.
The Iranian President said that the outside powers keep them underdeveloped because they derive their strength from their weaknesses. "They keep the countries poor and unstable." The Iranian President said, "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."
President Ahmadinejad said, "We should increase people to people contacts and cultural co-operation, 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 an innovative strategy should be evolved and implemented to offset its negative fallout on our people," he stressed.
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. Prime Minister Gilani said that successive visits of the President and Prime Minister clearly manifest the highest importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with Iran. The Iranian President happily agreed to declare Multan and Rasht (Gilan) as sister cities. He said, "it is an honour for us." The Iranian President that he was looking forward to visiting Pakistan to meet his Pakistani brothers and sisters.