ISLAMABAD – Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost yesterday said Iran does not prefer India over Pakistan despite the recent warming of ties after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.
The envoy said Iran will not let its territory be used against Pakistan, adding terrorism was the common enemy of the two nations.
Speaking at a discussion with academicians hosted by Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, the Iranian ambassador said by rejecting negative propaganda and interference by super powers, Pakistan and Iran could promote their relations on the basis of trade and economy.
He said Pakistan and Iran had the same religion, culture and faith had “mutual interests and concerns.” “Any concern or interest of Pakistan is our concern and interest. There is no question or ambiguity on it,” he added.
The envoy said: “We believe that Pakistan and Iran should work faster for the future of the region. Iran’s stance is clear that it never preferred any country over its neighbours, particularly Pakistan.”
The statement came after United States attacked a corolla car in Balochistan’s Nushki area killing Afghanistan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour who was allegedly returning from Iran after meeting his family.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan termed the drone strike a violation of country’s sovereignty. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif held a meeting with US ambassador David Hale and termed the attack detrimental to Pak-US relations.
“We never ever allowed Taliban and other militant groups to use Iranian soil,” he said, adding Iran openly opposed rise of Taliban even 16 years ago. He said Iran could never support likes of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Ambassador Honardoost said Iran’s Chabahar harbour was not a rival to Pakistan’s Gwadar port and stressed that both connectivity projects were in the interest of entire region.
The Iranian ambassador dismissed the impression that the Chabahar pact recently signed by Iran, India and Afghanistan was against any other country and said the mega project would ensure peace and tranquillity in the region.
Honardoost said Chabahar agreement was not limited to three countries only and offered Pakistan and China to join it. He said after bearing 37 years of unfair sanctions, Chabahar was a “window of international cooperation” for Iran.
He said some countries were against Pak-Iran gas pipeline however Iran, after constructing pipeline on its side with $ 2 billion, was waiting for Pakistan to accelerate the project. He said the project could prove a “jumping board” for Pakistan due to cheaper price of gas.
The envoy said terrorism and drug trafficking were the major problems confronting Pakistan and Iran. He said though 980-kilometre-long Pak-Iran border was safer than other borders of Pakistan and termed it a border of “peace and brotherhood”.
On Iran’s security wall built along Pakistan border, he dismissed the impression that it was to restrict the flow of Balochs from both sides. He said instead, identity cards had been issued to Baloch tribesmen to move across borders without visa, however he said Iran could not ignore the dangers of narcotics gangs.
Regarding relations with Saudi Arabia, he said Iran welcomed any rapprochement and lauded the reconciliatory efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia closer.
INP adds: Pakistan and Iran have agreed on revival of weekly train service between Taftan and Quetta to boost trade activities between both the countries.
Iranian Railway company manager Syed Mustafa said this was decided during a joint expert committee meeting of both the countries in Quetta.
The container service between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey was also considered in the meeting. Iran has also offered Pakistani traders access to European countries, Middle East via railway network.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 28-May-2016