ISLAMABAD: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that along with Pakistan, India is also Iran’s friend and whenever Iran and Pakistan come closer, rumours begin to swirl.
He said that tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia was an irritant in regional stability. He called upon Pakistan to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project on its side.
He said this while addressing media men after his meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif at his hotel on Saturday.
Earlier, addressing the Pakistan-Iran Business Forum Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Iran was eager to direct its resources towards Pakistan particularly in the areas of infrastructure development and energy.
On the occasion, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to boost bilateral trade with Iran to $5 billion within five years as he said that the economic revolution with robust Pak-Iran business and trade relations would benefit the whole region.
He said that the friendly and brotherly ties between the two countries would be transformed into a partnership in business and trade.
He reminded that the enhancement of trade was essential to transform brotherly relations with Iran into a robust economic partnership. “We are aiming at a five-year strategic action plan to boost our bilateral trade to the level of $5 billion by 2021. With the lifting of sanctions on Iran and reemergence of growth in Pakistan the target is within our reach.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that it was necessary to meet the challenges of terrorism and energy to bolster the economy. The government was working to promote ties with all the regional countries. The economic revolution in Pakistan would bring prosperity in the region. It was a shared challenge, he said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the government had taken effective steps to curb the menace of terrorism. “We are constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for the promotion of trade among the regional countries.”
He said that Pakistan-Iran relations were based on mutual respect, culture and religion. He said, “Hafiz and Saadi are as well known in Pakistan as Iqbal Lahori is in Iran. Our long standing close ties as brothers and neighbours do not, however, reflect economic and trade relations. More land routes for trade on our border, trade exhibitions, industrial and agricultural cooperation and mutual recognition of standards will boost trade,” he added.
Nawaz Sharif said that over the past three years Pakistan’s economy had emerged from the crises of extremism and energy shortages. “We have achieved macroeconomic stability and we are moving on the way towards vigorous and sustainable growth. This is a no small achievement considering the problems our economy facing due to security and energy shortages which cause a loss of two percent to our GDP annually,” he said.
He said, “To overcome the energy shortages, we have initiated a number of power projects and over 12,000MW will be added to the national grid by 2018 and 13,000MW additional power will be added afterwards. My government has made regional connectivity and trade a priority area. We have ambitious plans to generate and spread prosperity within Pakistan and our region through economic integration. One of the main pillars of our growth vision is construction of high capacity transportation corridors connecting major regional players. Our focus is not only on promoting trade with immediate neighbours but also the adjoining regions of Central Asia and South Asia,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said.
He emphasised that economically vibrant Pakistan was imperative for curbing the menace of extremism and terrorism. “Despite the tremendous human and economic loss, we are resolute in our fight against violence and extremism. We are convinced that the modern and progressive Pakistan envisioned by Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah cannot be realised without defeating this menace decisively,” he said. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recalled that the new global order had introduced fresh external and internal challenges for the world in general and the Muslim Ummah in particular.
“Despite possessing nearly 70 percent of the world’s energy resources and representing one fourth of the global population, the collective share of the Islamic countries in the global GDP is insignificant,” he said and added that the need to promote economic integration and liberal trade relations among the Muslim countries for economic growth could not be ignored. As members of OIC as well as D-8 Iran and Pakistan had a great opportunity to demonstrate benefits achieved through increased economic trade and technological cooperation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan and Iran were emerging simultaneously from a period of challenge and economic crises.
“New vistas of economic opportunity are opening before us. Let us walk together on this road and take our people towards shared peace and prosperity,” he added.
Iranian President Dr Hassan Rouhani in his address said the economic stability could be achieved by promoting Pak-Iran political and cultural relations.
He said that they believed that Pakistan’s security was Iran’s security. “We believe that the economic development of Pakistan is in fact the economic development of Iran as well because first of all there is a relation between security and development, they are inter-related. If we are looking for security, we should look for economic development, prosperity and employment of the young generations in the countries.”
He said that the economic relations between Iran and Pakistan could complement each other and could pave the way for a real expansion of relations between the two countries.
The Iranian president said that in the area of energy, gas, oil, Iran could promote economic development and prosperity of the Pakistani nation through technical engineering services as Iran had the capability to help develop the economic infrastructure of Pakistan including roads, railways, dams and other areas and of course to establish partnership with Pakistan in these areas.
“The reason for the success of the Islamic Republic of Iran to resist the sanctions and fall of crude oil prices is its diversity. This is the situation that a country can be safe against different damages and dangers if it increases the level of resistance, of course, the economic resistance of the country that in Iran, is called the economy of resistance.
President Rouhani said, “the Pakistani nation has significance for us as we are proud of the Pakistan Army for its successes against terrorism. In fact, we consider it as our own power and influence. Two brotherly nations are two neighbourly nations.”
Prior to the Ulema and scientists or policymakers of the two nations, the tradesmen of the countries had forged closer relations between the two countries, he said and added today the economic relations and expansion of economic relations between the two countries could be a major element for regional stability and security. It would be a crucial element for more unity. It would be major element for the stability of the region, he said. He said, “Not only should we work for the prosperity and welfare of our nation and for our region but also should work for regional security and for political and cultural interactions. “We need further closer economic relations and specially investment, joint investment, bilateral investment, multilateral investments. We should promote easiness at the official borders of the two countries and at the same time we should provide more security. We should increase our official relations and banking relations. We should provide a situation for free trade between the two countries,” he said. He announced amid a thunder of applause that Iran would provide energy security to Pakistan. “Based on our commitments in the area of electricity, based on our commitment in the area of gas – we have fulfilled our responsibility and will fulfill it in future. I can tell you that somehow gas has been transferred to the Pakistani borders and, of course, we are ready to expand and develop the cooperation. The Pakistani nation should be assured that Iran as a strategic partner for the Pakistani nation would always explore its potential in the field of oil and gas to satisfy the needs of Pakistani nation.”
“We voice our readiness to promote the volume of trade from $1 billion to $5 billion in the coming years. And, of course, this is possible by the tradesmen, entrepreneurs and state sectors of the two countries. They should cooperate in order to realise that Iran after its nuclear agreement and in the post sanctions era is an emerging economy and would play its role in all the areas. Beside cooperation with the eastern world, with international countries and the global countries, Iran attaches greater importance to its neighbours especially Pakistan. “Our cultural conditions and our regional conditions require us to have better economic relations and to promote it as far as possible and especially the private sector of the two countries as they should be encouraged in the area of trade and investment. The academic sector should also be supported for further cooperation in science, knowledge and technology. They should be supported and encouraged. Our defence and security sectors should cooperate with each other for further security of the borders and the region,” the Iranian president said.
President Rouhani also thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for extending him warm welcome during the visit.
In his welcome address, Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan said Pakistan would provide maximum facilities to Iranian traders for growth of multi-faceted economic relations between the two countries.
He said lifting of sanctions on Iran would open new avenues of cooperation between Pakistan and Iran in different sectors. Pakistan and Iran have signed an agreement to increase cooperation between the central banks of the two countries.