The Iranian president said on Saturday his country had completed work on its side of a multibillion-dollar gas pipeline, and would be in a position to provide gas to Pakistan in a few months.
Hassan Rowhani was speaking at a news conference at the end of his two-day visit that focused on increasing Pakistan’s electricity imports from Iran, boosting bilateral trade ties and reviving plans for the $7 billion gas pipeline between the two countries.
“Iran has constructed this gas pipeline up to the border of Pakistan and we are ready to deliver gas to Pakistan at our borders. We have almost completed our share,” Rowhani said. “It is now up to Pakistan to initiate work on its side.”
Dubbed the ‘peace pipeline’, the project has faced repeated delays since it was conceived in the 1990s to connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to India via Pakistan. India quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues, a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington.
The Iranian leader said his country was also interested in connectivity between Gwadar and the Chabahar ports through roads and shipping lines. He also stressed the need to secure border with Pakistan.
President Rowhani said his country could meet all the energy, fuel and electricity needs of Pakistan. Iran is already selling 1,000MW of electricity to Pakistan and will increase this up to 3,000MW, he added.
Speaking at a business conference with the Iranian leader earlier in the day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Islamabad and Tehran had signed an agreement to increase annual bilateral trade volumes to $5 billion by 2021.
Trade between Pakistan and Iran fell to $432 million in 2010-11 from $1.32 billion in 2008-09, according to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.
“Iran has the capability to help the development of the economic infrastructure of Pakistan including roads, railways dams and others area,” Rowhani said in his speech at the Pakistan-Iran Business Forum.
“Pakistani nation should be assured that Iran, as a strategic partner for the Pakistani nation, will always explore its potential in the field of oil and gas to satisfy the needs of Pakistani nation,” he said.
Rowhani assured Pakistan that provision of its energy security is Iran’s responsibility. He also reiterated bilateral commitment to take volume of trade to $ 5 billion within next five years.
“I announce that Iran is responsible for provision of Pakistan’s energy security. Based on our commitments in the area of electricity, based on our commitment in the area of gas – we have fulfilled our responsibility and will fulfill in the future,” Rowhani said in translated comment.
The Iranian president also drew attention of both the countries to complement each other as in today’s era the development of states was inter-linked. He highlighted the areas in which his country was enormously rich like gas, electricity, technical education, engineering besides construction of roads, dams and rail network.
“The tradesmen, entrepreneurs and the state sector should cooperate in order to realise that Iran after its nuclear agreement and in the post-sanctions era is an emerging economy and will play its role in the area,” he said.
Claiming that bilateral ties were rooted in the historic, cultural and religious bonds, Rowhani said both the countries should establish a partnership in the fields of transit and tourism.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2016.