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No chance of action against Iran, says minister

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday said that Pakistan would not support any aggression against Iran and called for strengthening ties with the neighbouring country.

The seminar on ‘Pakistan-Iran Relation: Challenges and Prospects’ was organised by the Islamabad Policy Institute in the context of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent trip to Tehran. The situation arising out of the US deployment of aircraft carriers in the Middle East also formed the backdrop of the discussion.

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, in response to a question, said there was no chance of action against Iran.

In his keynote address, he recalled how Prime Minister Khan and the Iranian leadership overcame their communication gap during the premier’s visit to Iran through some candid talk. “It was a very positive visit. Ice has been broken and foundation has been laid for better ties. We now have to build on it,” he said in his assessment of Mr Khan’s maiden trip to Iran.

The minister, while pointing out that several countries have continued trading with Iran despite US sanctions, said Pakistan too needs to keep its interest supreme and explore ways of completing the gas pipeline.

Developing direct air link between Islamabad and Tehran and bilateral trade even if through barter to avoid US sanctions suggested

Mr Zaidi noted that the absence of banking channels had been a major hindrance to development of ties, therefore a barter mechanism was under discussion for promoting bilateral trade.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Mushahid Hussain, while presiding over the session, said the two neighbouring countries enjoyed convergences in geography and culture with Allama Iqbal being the cementing factor; and compatibility of interest. “There is no incompatibility of interest on core issues,” he underscored.

However, he observed, there were concerns, mostly in security domain, which were being addressed through an ongoing and sustained security dialogue.

Mr Mushahid said Pakistan would never support a military adventure in the region and would not allow its territory to be used against Iran. He said that scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal was detrimental for global and regional peace.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Farhatullah Babar hailed PM Khan’s candid remarks on terrorism during Iran visit, saying relations can be improved only by beginning with a clean slate. “There should be truth telling on both sides and the issue of ungoverned spaces on either sides of the border need to be tackled immediately,” he said and regretted that in the past this important relationship was mishandled.

Convener of Pak-Iran Friendship Group in the Senate retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum said there should be efforts for developing direct air link between Islamabad and Tehran and bilateral trade even if through barter to avoid US sanctions.

He said Pakistan would never support aggression against Iran or its diplomatic isolation and economic strangulation.

Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Aizaz Chaudhry said that it was incomprehensible that Pakistan and Iran have not fully exploited the potential of their economic cooperation and trade. He believed that border security issues should have been resolved long ago. These issues, he suggested, can be effectively addressed through security and intelligence coordination.

Former foreign minister and President of the Pakistan Council on China Inamul Haque called for exploring ways through which bilateral trade can be enhanced with Iran despite the US sanctions and regularising illegal trade. He also asked for seeing why fencing was required on borders with Iran and Afghanistan.

Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost said true success of PM Khan’s visit could be judged by keeping in view the fact that third party has been active to drive a wedge between the two countries. He said there was no conflict of interest between Pakistan and Iran, which provided a good basis for working for developing the relationship to its full potential.

He categorically rejected allegations against Tehran regarding security incidents and said that Iran can never think about destabilising Pakistan or working against its interest.

Executive Director of the Islamabad Policy Institute Prof Sajjad Bokhari said it was a matter of record that when it comes to concerns about external interference in Balochistan, Iranian authorities have always shown readiness to discuss it at the very highest level. He said it was welcome that Pakistan too was now showing similar candidness.

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