ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leaving for Tehran on two-day visit today (Sunday) in what comes as his maiden tour to the neighbouring state since assuming power last year.
According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the visit is taking place on the invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “This would be the first leadership level visit since the formation of new governments in the two countries,” the FO said on Saturday. During the visit, the bilateral discussions on a set of economic matters, especially energy sector and regional trade, are expected to take place, with Iran Pakistan (IP) Gas pipeline project being an important item on the agenda.
Pakistan on Thursday said it had not scrapped the IP Gas Pipeline project, and, to this effect, PM Sharif would hold discussions with the Iranian authorities during his visit to Tehran. “The gas pipeline at the moment is not a regional issue. This is a project between Pakistan and Iran. The project would be discussed. Unlike the perceptions that are sometimes generated, the pipeline project has not been scrapped. It is very much on the table,” FO Spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam Khan responded to a query from Daily Times during weekly press briefing Thursday.
It merits a recall here that Daily Times on April 18 and April 24 exclusively reported, in the respective stories, on PM’s two-day visit to Iran taking place on May 11-12.
Meanwhile, the FO says, the PM’s engagements in Tehran include separate meetings with President Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenai. “The leadership level discussions would afford the two sides an opportunity to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations as well as regional and international developments of mutual interest,” an official statement said.
“Consistent with the vision of the two leaderships, special focus would be attached to strengthening economic ties between Pakistan and Iran. In this context, the existing potential of bilateral trade would be reinforced through initiatives aimed at enhancing physical connectivity between the sides,” it added. A number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs)/agreements on cooperation in various fields would also be signed during PM Sharif’s visit “with a view to institutionalising mutually beneficial cooperation,” the FO said.
“A peaceful neighbourhood remains a key priority of the government. Iran is an important pivot in this policy. The visit of the prime minister to Iran would not only provide a political affirmation to our bilateral relations, but would also set a forward trajectory for their future course.”
Prior to the PM’s visit, Advisor to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry paid visits to Tehran while Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli’s landed here on two-day visit in connection with the Joint Ministerial Commission’s meeting on Pakistan-Iran border security issues. A high-ranking delegation including Sartaj Aziz, Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PM’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi accompanies the PM on his visit to Iran.