Friday April 12, 2024

Chabahar, Gwadar should be declared sister ports: Iranian envoy

The ambassador emphasized the closeness of maritime links between the two countries

March 15, 2024
A representational image of Gwadar port. — AFP/File
A representational image of Gwadar port. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of Iran to Pakistan Dr Reza Amiri Moghadam on Thursday said that Gwadar and Chabahar should be declared sister ports.

The ambassador emphasized the closeness of maritime links between the two countries, especially Karachi and Gwadar and Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports. He said that it was an era of trade links and at this time both countries need to connect with regional and global trade through these ports.

Dr Reza Amiri Moghadam made these remarks during his visit to the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) at the invitation of President ICCI Ahsan Zafar Bakhtwari here on Thursday. Dr Moghadam said that Iran has a banking channel with Turkey, Bahrain and Iraq and Pakistan can follow this procedure. He said that Pakistan and Iran need to have strong air, maritime and sea links, which will strengthen the economic relations between the two countries. He said Pakistan will also be connected to regional and global trade with these connections.

The Iranian ambassador said that there was a strong possibility that the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be finalized in the upcoming visit of the President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi to Pakistan. In the upcoming visit of the Iranian president to Pakistan, several bilateral economic and trade agreements between the two countries will be signed. He said the agreements will strengthen the mutual economic and trade relations along with promoting the bilateral business between the two countries.

The Iranian ambassador said that the current bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Iran is $2.5 billion, which has increased by 11 percent in the last 11 months. He said that after the FTA and bilateral agreements between the two governments for the promotion of mutual trade, there is a strong possibility of doubling the mutual trade between Pakistan and Iran, which could reach $5 billion in the next few years.

He said the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline is a huge facility for the people of Pakistan on behalf of the government of Iran, which will benefit both the domestic and industrial sectors of Pakistan. Iran completed its section of the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline in 2009 at a cost of $1 billion, bringing it to Pakistan’s border to help resolve the country’s energy problems.

The Iranian envoy said that Iran is already trading with Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in the sector of energy and gas and Pakistan can also adopt the procedure adopted with these countries. He said the Pakistan-China trade corridor and BRI projects also have strong prospects for economic and trade integration. The world is currently being connected and both countries can make their place in the global trade market by connecting to the North-South and East-West trade corridors. Both countries can be connected with markets of Central Asia and Europe.

He said that Pakistan and Iran can fulfill 70 percent of each other’s needs by engaging in mutual trade. He highlighted that Iran imports halal meat and Pakistan can do a lot of work in this sector.

The ambassador said that Iran is issuing electronic visas to Pakistani businessmen and easing the process of getting visas. The relations between the business community of Pakistan and Iran, especially the ICCI and Tehran Chamber of Commerce and Industry, should be further improved.

Meanwhile, addressing the forum, the ICCI President, Ahsan Zafar Bakhtwari, said that Pakistan and Iran’s trade volume exceeds $2.5 billion annually, with Pakistan selling rice and other products to its neighbour while people living in the border area of Balochistan save money by buying Iranian food and goods from traders across the border.

He said that as part of a five-year trade cooperation plan for 2023-2028, Pakistan and Iran aim to increase the annual trade volume between the two countries to $5 billion. The ICCI president said that the two countries are also members of various regional and international fora such as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Iran’s forthcoming full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) further facilitates expanded interaction and collaboration between Pakistan and Iran.

He said that fostering deeper people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in science and technology will be pivotal. Ahsan said that infrastructure improvements are crucial to facilitate increased barter trade, while the issue of high tariffs from the Iranian side and absence of credible payment mechanisms need to be resolved.