Pakistan, Iran to step up cooperation in security, trade

Sharif-Rouhani

Promising to take the relationship to the next level, Pakistan and Iran have vowed to bolster cooperation in regional security and trade. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is on a visit to Pakistan, and becomes the first Iranian president to visit the country in 14 years.

Pakistan, which is known to be closer to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, has been in a conundrum over the diplomatic fall out between the two Middle East powers. Pakistan‘s relationship with Iran has been complex since the Islamic revolution in Iran.

The visit of Mr Rouhani is seen as a step forward in the relations between the two countries. He said that he and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have agreed to fight “extremist and terrorist groups” on their countries’ shared border. The two leaders announced the opening of two new crossing points to encourage trade, which had been hit over the years due to sanctions.

“We place emphasis on the need for cooperation between our two countries, on regional security,” Mr Rouhani said. He emphasised that issues related to energy, gas, export of electricity were also discussed.  Sounding optimistic, Mr Sharif said that he hopes the opening of two new crossings would contribute to “economic integration” in the region, while promoting tourism and “people to people contacts”.

Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline

The two leaders are also expected to discuss the controversial gas pipeline project from Iran, through Pakistan to India. Iran has invested over $2 billion in the project. Pakistan has not yet finished construction on its half of the pipeline. Many reports suggest that the pipeline may not happen due to the differences between India and Pakistan. India has been in discussion with Iran over an under-sea gas pipeline that could bypass Pakistan.

The work on the pipeline project was stalled on the Iranian and Pakistan sides due to various geo-political reasons. The project was also designed to help Pakistan in meeting its energy requirements. The sanctions against Iran were also responsible for delaying the project. However, with the lifting of sanctions on Iran, the two countries would hope to resume work in the stalled section.

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