President Rouhani (L) and Prime Minister Imran Khan (R). FILE PHOTOS
Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay an official two-day visit to Iran from April 21, the Foreign Office announced on Monday, in a development many see as Pakistan’s efforts to maintain delicate balance in its ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia.
This will be the first visit by the prime minister to Tehran since he assumed the office of Prime Minister in August last year and comes against the backdrop of recent border incidents that caused hiccup in ties between the two neighbours.
The friction has eased in recent weeks after Pakistan recovered the abducted Iranian border guards as well as assurance given by the prime minister to President Hassan Rouhani that Islamabad would not allow its soil to be used against the neighbouring country.
The visit is also being seen as crucial in view of deepening ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since the change of the government in Islamabad.
Imran undertook his first visit to Riyadh as part of his efforts to seek financial assistance from the kingdom to keep the country’s economy afloat.
His back-to-back visits helped Imran secure the financial assistance package. Not only that, his government managed to get a similar assistance from Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In February, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman visited Islamabad. Imran broke the usual protocol and drove the Saudi strongman to the Prime Minister House from the airport.
The deepening ties have created certain concerns in neighbouring Iran, which has serious differences with Saudi Arabia on Middle East and beyond.
Pakistan; however, tried to dispel the impression that its close ties with Saudi Arabia may undermine Iranian interests.
In a statement, the foreign office was quiet upbeat about the visit of Prime Minister Imran.
“Pakistan’s relations with Iran are marked by close historic and cultural linkages and strong people to people exchanges. Pakistan and Iran are also members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),” said the official handout.
It said the prime minister’s visit to Iran would further the close bilateral relationship between the two countries.
The visit will include a brief stopover in Mashhad before arriving in Tehran for bilateral talks with the Iranian leadership.
The prime minister will call on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, besides holding detailed consultations with President Hasan Rouhani.
The prime minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation — including ministers for finance, human rights, maritime affairs, inter-provincial coordination, adviser on commerce, Task force on Energy and Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources besides several senior officials.
The prime minister will also meet members of the Iranian and Pakistani business community in Iran.