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EghtesadOnline: Ambassador of Pakistan in Iran Asif Ali Khan Durrani in an interview with ISNA responded to a series of questions including Tehran-Islamabad relations.

Responding to the question about how he evaluated Tehran-Islamabad relations, especially after JCPOA, Durrani stated: “the two countries have maintained close and cordial relations throughout their history. These relations have only deepened and improved over the years, particularly during the last four years of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency. In this regard, both President Rouhani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while stressing on the need to further improve our bilateral and economic relations, agreed to enhance bilateral trade to US $5 billion in the coming 5 years”.

According to statistics published by the Iranian government, during the past year, bilateral trade between the two countries increased to US $1.15 billion during 2016-2017 from US $ 900.68 million a year ago. There was an increase of 28% in bilateral trade between the two countries, ISNA reported.

Today, “Work has already started on the IP Gas pipeline project and we can say that there is progress on the Pakistan part of this project. The real issue was that during sanctions on Iran, no foreign company was ready to invest. With the lifting of sanctions, however, international companies have come forward and work is in progress. I think the project will be completed in two years,” Durrani said in response to a question about when JCPOA has been signed and related sanctions have been lifted, what is Pakistan’s position on the Peace Pipeline?

“Regarding the Mirjaveh incident, investigations are still underway. I reiterate that the problem does not relate to Pakistan only. In the past, whenever Mirjaveh like incident occurred, we took immediate action and arrested the perpetrators and punished them. We have a border of nearly 920 km with Iran. This border is also a route for drug and human trafficking. The government of Pakistan has clearly announced that it would not allow its soil to be used for terrorist purposes or against any other country. Pakistan is very serious about it,” he stressed.

“Insecurity on Pakistani border is the result of developments that have taken place in Afghanistan over the decades. It was not us who invited the former Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan. Similarly, we did not invite the Afghan refugees to come to Pakistan. Pakistan became the front-line state during the former Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We continue to face its consequences, till date. We are carrying the burden of history. I want to give you this assurance that Pakistan has confronted terrorists and extremists with an iron-hand. We have successfully defeated the terrorists and smashed their hideouts in Pakistan. The remaining terrorists have now taken shelter in Afghanistan. Pakistan stands resolute and determined to eliminate extremist and terrorist elements inside Pakistan” Durrani added.

Explaining Pakistan’s position in Arab and non-Arab debate, he said: “We want unity of the Muslim Ummah and we do not consider any difference between Arab and Ajam. It is not an Arab and Ajam issue, rather the issue is related to all the Islamic countries. For us, unity of the Muslim countries is of utmost importance. Pakistan enjoys best of relations with all the Muslim countries. We are concerned that disunity amongst the Muslim countries will result in insecurity for all”.

“Pakistan believes in unity and peace between all Muslim countries. We continue with this policy and follow the principle of cooperation, harmony and peace. Given the fact that some Islamic countries are facing insecurity and unrest, it is essential that we all focus on bringing the Muslim countries on one platform and face the myriad challenges together,” the ambassador went on to say.

“Pakistan has joined the anti-terrorism alliance solely with the purpose of fighting terrorism and extremism. Therefore, our priority is to pursue for unity of the Muslim Ummah and fight terrorism. It was in this spirit that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Iran last year with the view to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We sincerely hope that the two brotherly countries would be able to resolve their outstanding differences through dialogue. We do not take sides on issues which may cause disunity between brothers. Our participation in the alliance is consistent with our policy of achieving unity among the Muslim countries,” according to the ambassador.

 “What has happened in Afghanistan has also saddened us and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to our Afghan brothers. We want the establishment of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan. Pakistan itself has been the victim of terrorism and extremism, losing more than 70 thousand lives of our people. That is why we will continue to fight terrorism. Today, we may be successful in defeating terrorists in Pakistan, but our efforts would continue till this menace is rooted out,” Durrani said.

“I do not want to comment on this issue. Pakistan believes that all issues should be resolved through negotiations,” he said regarding Pakistan and India relations.

“These two sister ports complement each other. The goal of China-Pak Corridor is to enhance regional trade. Of course China and Pakistan both will be the major beneficiaries of this project; however, it will also have a great impact on the regional trade, particularly in South Asia and Central Asia as well as the Middle East. I see complementarities rather than competition between the two ports,” he said about the Gwadar and Chabahar ports.

“We hope that this issue is resolved through negotiations between the two countries. We strongly support diplomatic means for the settlement of disputes between states. Pakistan would support all efforts that may bring about rapprochement between the parties,” he stated, referring to the Pakistan’s position in the disputes between Riyadh and Doha.

“As a responsible Nuclear Weapons State, Pakistan remains committed to non-proliferation norms and is against any nuclear proliferation. Our nuclear program has been meant to restore the strategic balance in South Asia which was disturbed due to India’s nuclear tests. Even if we are not a party to the NPT, we continue to adhere to the non-proliferation norms of the NPT. We believe that countries party to the NPT should adhere to the treaty and honor their commitments thereof,” Durrani said regarding nuclear cooperation with North Korea.

“We have bilateral relations based on mutual interests and this will never affect our relations with a third country. We are pleased that our relations with Russia are growing satisfactorily and we look forward to further strengthening of these relations to the mutual benefit. Our relationship with Russia is growing in all fields including economic, commercial, cultural and defense,” he noted about Moscow-Islamabad relations.

Iran-Pakistan ties Asif Ali Khan Durrani