Addressing tensions surrounding Chabahar, Mehdi Honerdoost, the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, on Friday said the Chabahar port agreement between Iran, India and Afghanistan is “not finished” and “not limited to these three countries”. Speaking on Pakistan-Iran relations at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad (ISSI), the envoy revealed that the offer to cooperate had first been extended to Pakistan and then China, implying neither had expressed interest. Ahmed Saffee, a research fellow at the ISSI, quoted the Iranian envoy as saying that the deal is still on the table for both Pakistan and China, assuring that “Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar”.
The ambassador added that both are sister ports, and Chabahar port authorities would extend cooperation to Gwadar. He stressed the importance of development both in Pakistan and Iran in order to fight against poverty and extremism. The Iranian envoy’s statement augurs well for strengthening relations between both neighbouring states. Pakistan has never been hostile to Iran during the standoff of the latter with the West over the Iranian nuclear programme. Despite international sanctions, Islamabad did not leave Tehran in isolation and continued its diplomatic support to Iran. Now, after the lifting of sanctions on Iran, the country is set to enjoy revived economic and commercial relations in various fields including trade, investment, technology, banking, finance and energy with neighbouring countries. It is an opportunity for resource-rich but poorly managed Pakistan to further improve its ties with Iran. Not only Tehran, Islamabad also needs to have better relations with Kabul and New Delhi. Iran seems to be sending all the right signals to Pakistan to assure the latter of its good intentions and importance of relations between the two countries. Islamabad should seize the opportunity because Pak-Iran trade relations have enormous potential. Pakistan should also take the initiative to further improve ties with Iran and reciprocate the expressed goodwill. It should fully take benefit from the generous offers extended by Iran regarding the Chabahar port agreement and electricity as well as other trade agreements. There are numerous opportunities to increase bilateral ties by establishing road and rail infrastructure in the border areas of both countries. It is good news that Iran is also seeking to address its neighbours’ concerns and engage them for the resolution of regional issues, such as the Taliban issue and the threat from terrorist groups including Daesh. Cooperation among regional countries is the only way forward for prosperity and wellbeing of the people. It is definitely in the interests of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Iran to have a better economic and trade relationship. All neighbouring countries should stand by each other for the common good. Lastly, Pakistan’s beleaguered state cannot afford hostile relations with its neighbours; rather cooperation with regional states will bring prosperity to the nation. It is hoped that better sense prevails and Pakistan and Iran are able to resume work on mutually beneficial projects and more regional cooperation. Pakistan and Iran need to bolster ties with one another to devise bilateral solutions to economic and social issues of their countries, and prosperity and security of the region.