Kharazi says Tehran is ready to mediate between Islamabad and New Delhi on Kashmir dispute. Clearly, Iran is competing with its western adversaries for a peacemaking role in the Indo-Pak region.
Chabahar project not in competition with CPEC: Iran’s ex-foreign minister. Kamal Kharazi, Iran’s former foreign minister (1997-2005), has said the perception in Pakistan that Iran’s Chabahar port, including subsequent development of roads and railways networks for enhancing the country’s trade, is a ‘rival project’ of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is not correct. He was addressing a roundtable discussion with members, journalists, former and current diplomats and research students at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday. Numerous foreign policy issues relating to Iran and Pakistan relations and their impact on the wider region were discussed. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kharazi was of the opinion that though it was true that India had massively invested in the Chabahar project, it was an open platform for all regional countries to participate in.
“The Chabahar project is aimed at connecting Iran with Central Asia, and the ultimate goal is to uplift the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that the project was under deliberations for a long time, hence, it was not correct to link its launch with that of the CPEC. “While we are engaging with India on the economic front and India is investing in Chabahar, we have not given exclusive rights on the project to them,” he said, adding that Iran “was considerate of the situation of Muslims in India and in the region” while making economic partnerships. “We have urged India a number of times to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful and justly manner,” he said. “We are even ready to mediate between Pakistan and India on the 70-year-old dispute, but we haven’t got a positive response from India on it ever,” he said. “But if we talk about economic partnerships, then Pakistan also has relations with the United States which has put a number of sanctions on us, but [Iran] doesn’t mind it,” he said.
He was of the opinion that bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan suffered due to a number of reasons, including reluctance of Pakistani banks to do business with Iranian entities due to a fear of US sanctions. “It is one of the most important factors that has affected the trade relations between the two countries,” he said. The two governments are in talks with each other to enable small Pakistani banks that don’t deal with the US so that more trade could be carried out between the neighbouring states. “The Free Trade Agreement between the two countries is currently under negotiation, and once signed, it will open doors for more business,” he added.
Mr Kharazi, who served as Iran’s foreign minister from 1997 to 2005, said that another issue that had negatively impacted the bilateral trade was the “lack of political will from Pakistani side due to intense pressure from the United States and middle-eastern countries”.
“We have completed the Iranian side of the gas pipeline project, but the Pakistani government seems to be under international pressure [which is] stopping it from proceeding any further,” he said, adding that the perception created by some circles that the projects were stalled due to Iran offering gas at exorbitant rates was based on speculation.
Talking about the US presence in Afghanistan, he said that in his view, the US would not be leaving Afghanistan any sooner as it had ambitions to stay in the region because of its strategic goals. “Iran supports any kind of peace negotiation that is held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and if such a deal is reached its conclusion, the US may not have any excuse for its continued presence in the country which it invaded 17 years back,” he said.
“All neighbouring countries have a role to play [in bringing stability to Afghanistan]”, because, he said, all the [regional] countries were suffering from the conflict at the heart of the region.
In reply to a question about Iran’s alleged interference in regional conflicts, he said that one of the pillars of Iran’s foreign policy was to oppose the interventions of world powers in other countries, especially the Muslim ones. He added:
We did support Iraq [after the US invasion] and we are supporting Syria as well, but governments of these countries invited [Iran] to help them defeat the militant Islamic State group. It would have been intervention had it been an uninvited exercise.
In response to another question, he said economic sanctions had hurt the Iranian economy for a long time, however, it was still doing better than the economies of other countries which were not under US sanctions. “Our people have tolerated the sanctions for a very long time and have suffered at the hands of it, but we are fighting the problems with our intelligence, wisdom, and resilience,” he said.
Kamal Kharazi was of the view that with the improvement in diplomatic and political ties, both countries would come closer and bilateral trade and economic cooperation will increase, which is for the benefit of both states.
He noted that there were ups and downs in the relations at the government level, but through on-going dialogue on different issues including trade and investment, these two neighbourly Muslim nations would come closer to each other and would emerge as strong supporters on many fronts.
‘Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is under negotiations, if successful, there will come big change,’ he remarked adding that Iranians and Pakistanis had great respect and love for each other. Pakistan and Iran are two nations that could not be separated in his view.
There was a big economic potential on both sides. Bilateral trade and economic cooperation could grow a lot, he said. To a question, he said that the bilateral trade volume was low for certain reasons. The absence of banking channel between the two countries was one of the main hindrances. Pakistani banks were hesitant to start their operations in Iran due to foreign political pressure, he maintained.
Referring to the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project, he said that Iran had laid the pipeline up to few kilometres back to its border with Pakistan at the cost of billions of dollars. Iran is waiting for Pakistan’s action. He recalled that Iran and Pakistan had been extending support and assistance to each other in difficult times. Dr. Kamal said that he had visited Pakistan’s main cities forty years ago (in December 1978) to share the message of Iran’s revolutionary leader Imam Khumeni.
Iran’s former minister for foreign affairs strongly rejected that his country had made interventions in other countries and said Iran worked only for Muslims unity and quoted Imam Khumeni’s fatwa:
Anyone who tries to divide Muslims into Shia and Sunni is kafir.
He cited an example of Iran’s support to Palestinians who are Sunnis and to Syria where a majority of the population was Muslims. Iran also supported Iraqi government against Daish. However, he made it clear that Iran would not hesitate to support any country who opposed Israel. The main focus of his country’s foreign policy was to oppose and resist Israel, the United States and European Union’s interventions, he said.
He said despite economic pressure due to the USA sanctions, the people of Iran were bold enough to defend their national independence and sovereignty. ‘Iranian people know, how to save their identity and national interests,’ he said adding that Iran was ready to have an alternative option. Although Iran had remained under sanctions for almost forty years, yet her economy was sound, rather progressing.
Iran was doing well in science and technology and many other sectors, ‘$ 105 billion goods, we produce every year,’ he informed. To a narration that Iran was getting very close to India who had also increased its role in the expansion of Chabahar sea-port, Dr. Kamal Kharrazi said that Iran had as good relations with India as with Pakistan and other countries especially in the region. He said:
We had invited Pakistan, China and other counties to invest in Chabahar. It was an open venue for foreign investment. There was the western corridor and that Gwadar could be interlinked to Chahbahar port as complementary to each other.
Iran had always been supporting Kashmir struggle. Iran had never complained that Pakistan had good relations with the USA and Saudi Arabia, he said. When his attention was drawn to Afghanistan situation, he said that peaceful Afghanistan was very important for the entire region including Iran and Pakistan; even for Central Asian states. Earlier, PIIA’s Chairperson Dr. Masuma Hassan briefed the guest about the institute history and research on different issues of national and international importance.
Events by PIIA
Coverage of our recent events can be found via the links below:
- Former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi Addresses PIIA Members
- The Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Pakistan: A Talk by Yukiya Amano
- A Talk by Dr Olena Bordilovska on ‘The Foreign Policy of Independent Ukraine’
- A Talk on National Security in Pakistan by NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua
- Adviser Sartaj Aziz: The Role of Russia and China is Vital for Regional Changes
- ‘The Legacy of Barack Obama’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori
- Pakistan’s Seventieth Anniversary and International Relations in 2017
- ‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter
- ‘The Future of Afghanistan’: A Talk by Professor Marvin Weinbaum
- Pakistan and the Panama Papers
- Dr Bärbel Kofler: Transferring the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights into Practice in Germany
- Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective
- Ahmed Rashid: Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan
- Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead
- A Talk by Ambassador Brigitta Blaha on Austria’s Foreign Policy
- Why Think Tanks Matter to Policy Makers and the Public
- Mani Shankar Aiyar: Continuity and Change in India’s Foreign Policy
- The Middle East in Turmoil: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori
- ‘The Future of Syria’: A Talk by H.E. Ambassador Radwan Loutfi