Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost has said that the Iran’s Chabahar Port was not a rival to Gwadar Port, emphasising both were in the interest of the entire region.
Speaking at a talk hosted by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) here on Friday, the Iranian ambassador dismissed the impression that the Chabahar pact recently signed by Iran, India and Afghanistan was against any other country and said that the mega project would ensure peace and tranquillity in the region.
Honardoost said the Chabahar agreement was not limited to three countries, offering Pakistan and China to join it. He said after bearing 37 years of “unfair” sanctions, Chabahar was a “window of international cooperation” for Iran. He said that the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline could prove a “jumping board” for Pakistan due to cheaper price of gas. He said that Iran, after constructing pipeline on its side with two billion dollar, was waiting for Pakistan to accelerate the project.
Responding to a question on the recent drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, he said Iran had never been a supporter of Taliban. He said, “We never ever allowed Taliban and other militant groups to use Iranian soil”, adding that Iran openly opposed rise of Taliban even 16 years ago.
Honardoost said that terrorism and drug trafficking were the major problems confronting Pakistan and Iran. He said the 980-kilometer long Pak-Iran border was safer than the other borders of Pakistan and termed it a border of “peace and brotherhood”.
To a question about Iran’s security wall built along Pakistan’s border, he dismissed the impression that it was to restrict the flow of Baloch nationals from both sides. Instead, he said identity cards had been issued to Baloch tribesmen to move across borders without visa. He, however, said that Iran could not ignore the dangers of narcotics gangs.
The Iranian ambassador said by rejecting negative propaganda and interference of super powers, Pakistan and Iran deserved better promotion of their relations on the basis of trade and commerce. He said Pakistan and Iran had “mutual interests and concerns” and there was no question or ambiguity on it. “We believe that Pakistan and Iran should work faster for the future of the region,” he said.
On relations with India, he said Iran’s stance was clear that it never preferred any country over its neighbours particularly Pakistan. On relations with Saudi Arabia, he said Iran welcomed any rapprochement and lauded the reconciliatory efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia closer.
ISSI Director General Masood Khan said that it was encouraging that both Pakistan and Iran wanted to remove barriers and impediments to further strengthening relations between the two neighbours. Khan said that the proper dialogue mechanism could further promote Pak-Iran relations.
Khan stated that in the economic realm, the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was considered to be a flagship project between the two countries and urged for its swift implementation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2016.