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Pakistan and Iran have agreed to work hand in hand

Dec 10 - 16, 2001

After the fall of Taliban government in Afghanistan the main irritant in the relations of the two countries has been removed. Now putting the bitter past behind, Pakistan and Iran have agreed to work hand in hand, not only for the establishment of broad-based multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan, but also to establish a number of joint committees to catch up with the lost time on bilateral trade, commerce and economic joint ventures including the mega project of Pak-Iran gas pipeline extending up to India.

Relations between Pakistan and Iran are back to normal and the two sides now share absolute unanimity on all issues including Afghanistan, announced Dr. Kamal Kharazi, the Foreign Minister of Iran, during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar on Friday last.

Kharazi had just come back from a very productive and rather lengthy meeting with President Musharraf on Afghanistan and bilateral matters while his large delegation met with their counter-parts to sort out the nitty gritty of renewed relations between the two capitals. A number of joint ventures, economic projects and trade agreements between Iran and Pakistan had been lying in a cold storage.

The two Foreign Ministers reported to the press that the two countries now enjoy complete harmony and a new era of relationship has begun. "Taliban are matter of past and shadows that marred our relations don't exist any more. Sun is shining and we should take full advantage of it," were the very warm remarks of Abdul Sattar who looked happy, satisfied and confident about the outcome of his talks with the Iranian delegation. Bringing Iran on board for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and also reviving the historic brotherly ties with Tehran has been Pakistan's wild dream ever since the fall of Taliban and rise of Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Iranian Foreign Minister announced that the two sides have agreed to form various joint committees which will start the implementation process. We have already lost lot of time due to Taliban controversy and cannot afford to lose more. "I have ordered my people to visit Pakistan very soon to examine the procurement of wheat, sugar and rice from Pakistan. Most importantly we have decided to establish a joint technical committee to complete the feasibility report of Pak-Iran gas pipeline on war footing basis," said Dr. Kharazi. The two sides have also decided to establish a joint committee for reconstruction of Afghanistan under the UNDP and other international aid agencies. "Now when the Taliban government has fallen, Pakistan and Iran have a major role to play for peace, stability and reconstruction of Afghanistan. We both support UN efforts to put together a broad-based multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan. We will also adhere completely to the UNSC Resolution 1378 about the international terrorism," the joint statement said.

While both expressed complete unanimity and satisfaction over the Bonn process, the two sides have a minor difference of perception over the stationing of multinational peace forces in Afghanistan. Iranian Foreign Minister was of the view that Bonn process should facilitate a quick establishment of a transitional council, which can then form a national police or national guards for the security of the country. But the Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar left the issue wide open for the negotiating Afghan parties in Bonn to decide if they want a multinational force inside their country or not. We will support the decision of the Afghan people but Pakistan as a matter of a policy decision will never send its troops to Afghanistan, said Sattar.

The visiting Foreign Minister, Dr Kamal Kharazi, said his country would buy wheat, rice and gasoline from Pakistan while it offered to sell, besides oil, railways wagons.

Exports from the Iranian Ministry of Agriculture would be coming to Islamabad next week to review steps for removal of procedural difficulties in wheat deal. The import of wheat from Pakistan has to match the standards set by Iran, Kharazi said.

Similarly, another team of experts from the two countries would discuss the issue of export of rice and gasoline to Iran. In his turn, Dr. Kharazi said his delegation also discussed the possibility of buying sugar from Pakistan, provided it met the standards of his country Kharazi led a delegation of 19 officials representing the Ministries of Commerce, Economic Affairs, Communications and Defence.

Abdul Sattar said that the two delegations had discussed in detail issues concerning their respective ministries that were expected to go a long way "in giving a new direction, strengthening our ties with Iran".

In his remarks Dr. Kamal Kharazi spoke of the old project of a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and later to India and said that a joint technical committee of experts was being set up to revive the project. He said Iran had a similar committee with India which was seized of the purchase of gas from Iran and was preparing a feasibility report. More than that, Dr. Kharazi said his delegation also represented Iranian private sector and they had a very good discussion with their Pakistani counterparts on the opportunities for joint ventures and also investment in Pakistan and railroad wagons.

He said in addition they had discussed measures to increase cooperation in the joint cultural heritage and in this connection the Pakistani government had approved plans for construction of a new building for Pakistan Iran Cultural Institute that had been working in Islamabad for quite some years. He said that the Institute had worked very hard to collect rare books and manuscripts on the common linguistic and cultural heritage and it needed a proper accommodation.