ISLAMABAD: With Iran President Hassan Rowhani expected in Pakistan this week, Islamabad and Tehran are likely to review their overall trade relations after the lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his desire to strengthen relations with Iran on Monday during a meeting with envoy Mehdi Honardoost, who called on him at the PM House.
Special report: The future of Pakistan-Iran relations
“The visit will be a great opportunity for us to review the whole range of bilateral relations and further strengthen our brotherly ties,” an official statement quoted PM Nawaz as saying.
Congratulating the ambassador on his new assignment, the premier hoped the new envoy would make valuable contributions in strengthening bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries.
Pakistan, he added, greatly values its fraternal ties with Iran and considers Iran a close friend and a neighbour.
“We are pleased to note that international economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted, paving the way for expeditious resumption of commercial and economic ties between our countries,” the PM said. “I am looking forward to welcoming President Rowhani later this week.”
During his visit to Iran in January, PM Nawaz had invited the Iranian president to visit Pakistan. Pakistan has already lifted sanctions on Iran after the United Nations eased curbs on the Islamic republic.
Upon his visit to Pakistan, President Rowhani is likely to push for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. The project was to be commissioned in December 2014 but work was stalled after sanctions were placed on Tehran.
Officials say there are hopes the project can be implemented now.
The PM House statement said the visit would be a great opportunity for the two countries to review the whole range of bilateral relations.
“Revival of economy and overcoming the energy deficit in Pakistan are high-priority areas of the government,” PM Nawaz was quoted as saying. “Our vision for achieving economic stability and development in Pakistan are linked with stability in the region.”
Trade with Iran: Areas Pakistan is looking to tap
Thanking the PM for his warm welcome, Ambassador Honardoost said the existing bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan did not reflect the enormous potential. “We need to seize the moment by redoubling our efforts to achieve the target of $5 billion set by PM Nawaz and President Rowhani in May 2014,” the envoy was quoted.
The PM agreed with the ambassador. “Pakistan is keen to explore all available business and trade opportunities in the region which will prove mutually beneficial for the neighbouring countries as well,” he emphasised.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2016.