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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs was informed on Tuesday that Pakistan remains committed to the Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline project being a “matter of high priority” and the two sides are extensively engaged with each other in this regard.

The committee meeting which was held with Mohsin Dawar in the chair was briefed by Foreign Secretary Dr Asad Majeed Khan on the panel’s previous recommendations, as well as, the recently held Pakistan-US Counterterrorism Dialogue, and senior officials of the Ministry of Defence briefed the committee on mid-level defence dialogue.

To the committee’s recommendation that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other stakeholders should eliminate obstacles in the successful completion of the IP gas pipeline project, the foreign secretary stated that Pakistan remains committed to the IP gas pipeline project. “It is a matter of high priority for us and we are extensively engaged with Iranian authorities in this regard.”

To another recommendation with regard to pursuing options to secure waivers on oil trade with Iran like India and China, he said that all options are being actively explored for the purpose. However, he added that it is a technical issue and consultations are continuing with all stakeholders.

The foreign secretary also informed the panel that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide all facilitation to the ministries of Finance and Commerce for the opening of the banking channels between Pakistan and Iran for smooth bilateral trade that does not come under the US sanctions.

Briefing the committee on the Pakistan-US ties and the recently held counterterrorism dialogue between the two countries in Islamabad, the foreign secretary said that interagency authorities of the two countries exchanged intensive dialogue on cooperation in the counterterrorism domain.

Responding to a question, he said that conversations’ track with the United States has resumed which were put on hold by the previous Trump administration. He said that the Trump administration put on hold the format of “strategic dialogue” between the two countries and the current Biden administration not only reopened the previous tracks of communications but also added two new areas of cooperation – health and climate change.

In the counterterrorism dialogue held on March 6-7, he said that the two sides emphasized the need for strengthening cooperation, adding that Pakistan side highlighted the post-US withdrawal scenario and also expressed concerns over the presence of terrorist organizations in the region.

On the second round of Pakistan-US mid-level dialogue which was held in Washington from February 13-16, 2023, the defence officials told the committee that matters of bilateral interest with focus on equipment and training cooperation were discussed.

Pakistan’s side was headed by Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt Gen Mohammed Saeed who also held important meetings with senior US military and civilian officials from the US Department of Defence, Department of State, National Security Council US Joint Staff HQ and Army HQ on the sidelines.

The committee was informed that the mid-level defence dialogue is structured dialogue with the US, enabling both countries to discuss issues related to regional defence and security with a view to promoting stability as a whole.

The committee underlined the need for transparency and engagement of people’s representatives in Pak-US counterterrorism cooperation. The chairman of the committee, in his remarks, stressed that counterterrorism cooperation and defence dialogues should be negotiated with an aim to advance Pakistan’s national interest as well promote regional stability.

Speaking on the consequences of the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the US, the chairman stated that the nature of the agreement and negotiation was exclusionary in nature and proved detrimental to regional stability.

He added that Pakistan facilitated the deal without realising its potentially adverse implications for regional peace and stability.

Referring to the engagement of the elected representatives on such matters, the committee cited Parliament’s decision on the conflict in Yemen that helped Pakistan maintain a neutral position in the conflict.

The members underlined the need for taking Parliament in confidence on such important cooperation and defence dialogues.

Besides Chairman of the Standing Committee, the meeting was attended by Mohammad Khan, Zahra Wadood Fatemi, Noorul Hassan Tanvir, Nawab Sher, Ahmad Hussain Deharr, and Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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