TEHRAN, May 30 (MNA) – Pakistani Ambassador to Iran Asif Ali Khan Durrani expressed hope over the increase in cooperation after the lifting of sanctions on Iran.
Durrani underlined that the volume of trade between Iran and Pakistan has increased up to 35% in the last one year.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Following Mirjaveh incident and martyrdom of Iranian border guards at the hands of terrorists on Iran-Pakistan border, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, during a telephone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, discussed Iran’s preparedness to form a special security committee and a border committee of the two countries during the meeting of experts. Is the Pakistani side also prepared for the establishment of such a committee?
I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to our Iranian brethren on this tragic incident. Pursuant to this incident, the two sides agreed to form such a committee. It may be noted that a special security committee already exists between our two countries. Since this incident is being jointly investigated by Pakistan and Iran, it would not be appropriate to raise or discuss this issue in the media before the investigation concludes.
Following this tragic incident, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Pakistan and held meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, as well as the Speaker of National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, National Security Advisor Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua and the Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Islamabad announced in clear terms that “we will never allow our soil to be used against neighboring countries and full investigation would be conducted about the incident and if anyone from the Pakistani side was found involved, the Government of Pakistan would take legal action”. There is absolutely no doubt that Pakistan greatly values its close relations with Iran and that the two countries have always stood with each other.
Advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz, during an interview with Dunya Network said, “if Tehran gives us information about terrorists who acted against Iranian border guards, Pakistan will take action”. Does it indicate that Islamabad lacks intelligence about these terrorist groups?
Since this incident happened on the Iranian soil, it is only natural that Iran should share all information with Pakistan. We can move forward in the case only when all the evidence has been gathered. It is noteworthy that we have conducted full investigations on all previous incidents that took place on the Iran-Pakistan border and took the culprits to task.
The point is that terrorists entered from the Pakistani soil and again escaped inside Pakistan.
The side of the Mirjaveh incident was inside the Iranian territory. We are still awaiting complete information from the time of occurrence of this incident to the escape of these terrorists from the Iranian territory. It is advisable to wait for the completion of the investigations so that all facts come true.
Which groups and countries support the terrorist groups acting against Iran’s interests and are present on the Pakistani soil. How much control does Pakistan's intelligence have over these groups?
As a representative of the Pakistan government, I can say that Government of Pakistan would never allow anyone to carry out such activities using its soil.
Does Islamabad recognize Jaish ul Adl as a terrorist group?
What is your opinion on acceptance of Saudi Military Alliance command by General Raheel Sharif, former Commander of Pakistan Army? What is Islamabad’s goal in joining the alliance at this level?
It is an Islamic Alliance and its objectives are very clear i.e. fight against extremism and terrorism.
What kind of Islamic Alliance is it, which does not include Iran, Iraq and Syria?
Pakistan has joined this Islamic Alliance in good faith, to work for the unity of all Islamic countries. Pakistan’s participation in the Alliance is not against any particular country.
The Alliance is against Iran, however, Islamabad made efforts not to consider it as an Anti-Iran Alliance by inviting Iran to join it, Do you think such an invitation is a kind of diplomatic incident?
As I said we are for the unity of Muslim Ummah and would like to strengthen its unity. Pakistan has close relations both with Iran and Saudi Arabia and would make all efforts to bridge the gaps between our two great Muslim brothers.
Regarding Iran–Saudi Arabia tensions and in view of the good ties that Islamabad enjoys with both side, the question is can Pakistan strike balance in relation with the two sides and if not will it be compelled to opt for one of them?
Our good ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia can help bringing these two brotherly countries closer. You may recall the efforts of our Prime Minister last year to narrow down the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
We saw that the meeting “One-Belt, One Road” was held in China. As you may know, the goal of this meeting is to revive the Silk Road, and with regard to the objection of India with this meeting and bringing up the issue of Kashmir, do you think that this Alliance will make new blocs in the region, for example creating new blocs with focus on India and America?
Pakistan has taken part in the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative as we understand that, this initiative will boost economic integration in the region. Therefore, we cannot comment on what other countries decide or do as it is not our business.
India by boycotting this meeting announced that the territorial sovereignty of India is ignored since this plan will strengthen the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and will pass through Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, a region where India and Kashmir dispute rests.
We reject India’s contention on CPEC and Kashmir.
What is the position of Iran and Pakistan in revival of Silk Road?
So far, Pakistan and almost 60 other countries have participated in this project, which is a good sign as the plan of New Silk Road is in fact a coalition leading to the development and progress of people in the wider region on a massive scale.
What are the main fields of Iran and Pakistan’s cooperation at the moment?
Iran and Pakistan cooperate in a number of diverse fields. Our cooperation has increased after the lifting of sanctions on Iran after which the volume of trade has increased up to 35% during the last one year. The trade volume is expected to rise again after signing the Banking and Payment Arrangement Agreement happened last month, between the Central Bank of Iran and State Bank of Pakistan. Due to this agreement, the commercial Banks of the two countries will be able to conduct normal business.
One of the reasons the contract for export of gas from Iran to Pakistan was not implemented due to Iran’s sanctions, but why Pakistan is not willing to implement this project after the lifting of sanctions?
All measures to complete this project are ongoing. The reason for delay is that during sanctions on Iran, no company was ready to invest in this project. Our efforts in this direction are underway because we need Iran’s gas.
Pakistan signed an agreement with Qatar to buy its condensed gas. Is Pakistan looking for a replacement for the Peace Pipeline?
We have contracts with other countries in the world because our country needs gas. Despite import of gas from Iran, our need is still not fully catered to. Therefore, we have signed TAPI (Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India) gas pipeline agreement as also with Qatar.
How much of the recent tensions and issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan on joint borders are resolved?
There is no problem on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We sincerely want peace and security in Afghanistan. We will do our utmost, in this regard, because instability and insecurity in Afghanistan has been problematic for our country as well as the whole region.
Recently there have been some issues on border and they still exist?
In this case, experts from both sides have met a few times. Hopefully, an amicable solution will be found out as has been the practice between the two countries in the past.
Is this border still closed?
Yes Chaman border is closed. Some meetings have been held between officials and experts and we hope that this issue will be resolved soon. [Closed at the time the interview was conducted, Chaman border is now open.]
Regarding the issue of Kashmir and the tensions existing between India and Pakistan, what is the position of Pakistan and India on Kashmir?
Pakistan’s position on Kashmir is very clear. According to the resolutions of UN Security Council, a plebiscite must be held in Kashmir for its accession to India or Pakistan. We support a solution pursuant to the UN Security Council resolutions through holding a plebiscite in Kashmir. India has been wavering in its commitments to the UN Security Council.
Since July last year, more than one thousand innocent children lost their eyesight and many civilians have been martyred in Indian-held Kashmir. What can be more heart rendering than that? For a country that claims to be the largest democracy in the world, such brutal human rights violations should be a source of contemplation for India and a challenge to the world community how to save the hapless Kashmiris from the scourge of state terrorism.
The Kashmir dispute has existed for over 70 years now. It is the political, moral and legal duty of India to fulfill the promises it made to the people of Kashmir and the international community for holding of a plebiscite according to the resolutions of the UN.
Can you describe the situation on Kashmir’s borderlines and LOC?
The situation on the Line of Control that separates Azad Kashmir from Indian Occupied Kashmir continues to witness flagrant border violations by India, which have resulted in deaths of scores of innocent civilians. India is responsible for stoking tensions along the Line of Control.
Is a cease-fire enforced in this region?
The cease-fire was held successfully for 10 years since 2003, but after renewed Intifada in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, India has put the pressure on the Line of Control to divert attention of the international community on its brutalities and worst kind of human rights in the Kashmir Valley.
Interview By: Banafsheh Esmaili