ISLAMABAD - Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Tuesday offered his government’s support to complete Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline project and hinted to extend cooperation in other fields of mutual interest.

Ambassador Hosseini, in an interview with media, said Iran was willing to further strengthen mutual trade cooperation; completion of energy projects, especially the IP gas pipeline; progress in the establishment of border markets; finalisation of a free trade agreement, and collaboration on major ports and security areas. He said there were no sanctions on the export of gas from Iran and Pakistan could take full benefit of it to fulfill its energy needs. The IP gas pipeline was a key project in that regard and both the countries realised its importance. The gas pipeline project was being deliberated by the technical committee, he said, adding its completion would also open new avenues for mutual cooperation between the two countries. The ambassador said Iran was already exporting 100 megawatts of electricity to Pakistan for meeting the power needs (of its bordering areas) and it would be increased in future. He said work was also going on another project to provide electricity to Pakistan. Both the countries had taken initial steps in that regard. Ambassador Hosseini identified opportunities for investors of both countries in various trade sectors, particularly the industrial zones. Highlighting the role of both countries in regional economic and trade integration, he said North-South and East-West corridors would not only connect Pakistan to Iran, but also help the former’s trade and economic integration with Central Asia, Europe, Middle East and Russia. He said the two countries were making joint efforts to achieve the target of enhancing their mutual trade to $5 billion. He said both Pakistan and Iran were geographically very important countries and their mutual cooperation was of utmost importance to make it useful for their geo-economic interests.

The ambassador said the two countries could find ways for mutual economic partnership and trade. There was possibility of opening a banking channel in the near future, he added. He said barter trade between the two countries could be promoted as “we have the example of mutual trade in rice and meat”. As regard the movement on the Pakistan-Iran border, he said new crossing points had been opened. The two countries were committed to provide more facilities at the crossing points to not only facilitate the movement of common people but also transit trade. He said it was decided in principle to set up six border markets in order to promote mutual trade relations. The Pishin border market had been completed and its inauguration was on the cards, while work on Gabd, Rimdan and Kohak markets would start soon, he added.

About the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the ambassador said several rounds of negotiations had taken place between the two countries. Mutual trade lists had been exchanged, with consensus developed on trade items, he added. He recalled that the two countries had signed the Preferential Trade Agreement in March 2004, which, he said, required to be reviewed and made more effective. He stressed the need of tariff rationalisation and other reforms for enhancing the volume of mutual trade to $5 billion. It would also help promote regional trade, he added. As regards the two countries’ role in the promotion of regional trade, the ambassador said both transit routes and transport were too important in that regard. The Pakistan-Iran-Turkiye train link had been restored, which would not only promote economic and trade relations among the three countries but also increase regional economic and trade integration. The three governments had agreed to equip the train route with facilities, which would promote mutual trade and goods trade operation, he added. He said the Taftan-Quetta train section needed to be repaired, and both Iran and Pakistan had a consensus to do that. He said the train link among Pakistan, Iran and Turkiye could play a very important role in regional trade integration as it could connect Central Asia, Middle East and Europe economically and commercially.

He said Iranians had expertise in train and wagon production. Likewise, his country had special expertise in the field of transportation, which was very important for transit trade. To a question, the Iranian ambassador said direct air connectivity between Tehran and Islamabad, and other big cities of the two countries was very important for the promotion of mutual relations. He said there was a lot of potential in religious tourism in both the countries. The people of Pakistan visited Iran for pilgrimage to sacred sites.  He expressed the hope for the possibility of an open vise policy between the two countries. The ambassador said for the promotion of e-commerce trade between the two countries, the young population should be involved. Similarly, he said, cooperation between the chambers and business communities of both countries would promote cordial relations on both sides.