Mashhad – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani regard Pak-Iran ties as the top priority and have directed the foreign ministry to work on achieving the goal, a senior Iranian official said.
Dr Mohammed Ajam, minister counsellor of the Iranian foreign ministry, told The Nation that Tehran was making all efforts to remove misunderstandings between the two Muslim-majority nations.
“We believe Pakistan is under the US pressure not to come too close to Iran. Pakistan should not link Pak-Iran ties to Pak-US relations. Pakistan is a sovereign country and can have equally good ties with several countries,” he maintained. He said: “Iran and Pakistan share interests. If and when our leadership is invited to visit Pakistan , we will not delay it (the visit). The rehbar (the Supreme Leader) and the president think Iran-Pakistan ties should be the top priority. We always work to retain friendship with Pakistan . This is in accordance with the directions of the top leadership .”
On Friday, President Rouhani, who is on a visit to India, urged all Muslims to set aside internal disputes. “Iran wants unity, independence and support for the East. The enemies of Islam want to represent Islam as a religion of violence. Islam is not a religion of violence. Islam is a religion of moderation, Islam is a religion of kindness,” he said.
Pakistan has lifted sanctions against Iran after the country’s nuclear deal with world powers. In 2016, Pakistan was active to ease Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions after the latter executed 47 people on terrorism charges including Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia religious leader, and Fares Al-Shuwail Al-Zahrani, a convicted Al-Qaeda leader.
Nimr’s execution had spurred Iranian demonstrators into ransacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting several Saudi allies to break off diplomatic ties with Iran.
Pakistan and Iran are hoping to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project soon to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis. The IP pipeline project – also called Peace Pipeline – is aimed at constructing a pipeline from Iran’s South Pars fields in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan ‘s major cities of Karachi and Multan.
The pipeline can carry 110 million cubic meters of gas a day. Iran will initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas per day to Pakistan , but will eventually increase the gas transfer to 60 million cubic meters per day.
Pakistan and Iran are economic partners. This cooperation lasted throughout the cold war, with Iran supporting Pakistan in its conflicts with arch-rival, India. In return, Pakistan supported Iran militarily during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.
Recent difficulties have included disputes over trade and political position. While Pakistan ‘s foreign policy maintains balanced relations with Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the European Union, Iran tends to warn against it and raised concerns about Pakistan’s alleged backing of the Taliban during the fourth phase of civil war in Afghanistan in the last years of the 20th century. Iran was concerned after former army chief Raheel Sharif’s appointment as the head of the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance but Islamabad assured Tehran that the coalition was not anti-Iran.
Iran has been a respected, popular, and favoured nation among Pakistanis, with 76 percent of Pakistanis viewing their western neighbour positively, making Pakistan the most pro-Iran nation in the world.
Dr Mohammed Ajam said that Iran and Pakistan had hosted millions of Afghan refugees and must try to resolve the Afghanistan issue together.
“There are around three million Afghans living in Iran. More than half of them are illegal. We have been deporting thousands of Afghans annually who enter illegally and start working here,” he said.
Dr Ajam said that misunderstandings between Iran and Pakistan exist but “they can be removed with sincere efforts. Out leadership is for unbreakable friendship with Pakistan .”