ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce seems to be least bothered by the trilateral agreement signed recently by Iran, Afghanistan and India for developing the Chabahar port, believing it can never be a competitor of Gwadar port since it is not a deep-sea port.
Senior ministry officer Rubina Akhter, who is the Additional Secretary of Trade Diplomacy, while talking to The Express Tribune said there was much hype about the move by Iran, Afghanistan and India, which inked an agreement to develop the Chabahar port, but it was not a threat to Pakistan.
The three countries signed the deal after the landmark China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project was launched by Pakistan and China under which Gwadar deep-sea port would be developed for opening an easy access to the regional markets.
“There is no need to worry as Chabahar is not a recent development and the three countries have been working on it for a long time,” Akhter said, adding it was not an unexpected move in the region.
She said there was no match between the Chabahar and Gwadar ports as both had much contrast and could never become competitors.
She explained that besides not being a deep-sea port, the distance from Chabahar to potential markets is also much longer than Gwadar, which is another minus point of the Iranian port.
She mentioned that the Iranian president during his recent visit to Pakistan also clarified that they were developing the Chabahar port and it was not a competitor of any other port in the region.
The other day Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost also dispelled the impression that Chabahar was a move against any other country.
He stated that each port in the region was of equal significance and benefit to the area and through cooperation they could be mutual partners and not competitors.
He stated the Chabahar deal was “not restricted to these three nations” and even Pakistan and China were welcome to be part of it.
The Ministry of Commerce and Iranian authorities are also working to sign a free trade agreement and in this regard an initial text is being prepared to share with Tehran.
The step has been taken after the lifting of sanctions by the international community following a successful deal on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Akhter said the trade diplomacy with Iran was moving in the right direction. There were a number of events on the cards in both the countries focused on promoting bilateral trade, which had halted due to the sanctions.
The commerce ministry will lead a delegation to Iran in July or the first week of August to discuss trade-related issues and a proposal to hold a single-country exhibition of Pakistani goods in Iran.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2016.