“The prime minister’s visit to Iran will further the close bilateral relationship between the two countries. The visit is in response to an invitation by President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani and the prime minister will be accompanied by ministers for finance, human rights, maritime affairs, inter-provincial coordination, adviser on commerce, task force on energy and special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resources besides several senior officials,” said an announcement from the Foreign Office.
Before landing in Tehran, the prime minister’s delegation will stop-over briefly at Mashhad for Ziarat at the Imam Reza shrine beside another engagement for which details are not being shared with media.
Bilateral talks between the two sides will include a meeting with Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei, besides holding detailed consultations with President Rouhani. “The prime minister will also meet members of the Iranian and Pakistani business community in Iran,” the announcement added.
This visit to Iran by Imran Khan is being widely welcomed, as Iran is the only immediate neighbour that he is able to visit. It also goes a long way to balance Pakistan’s relations where even in the past Pakistan’s tilt towards Saudi Arabia was not a secret. This helps Islamabad to remain neutral in the continuing tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
“Pakistan’s relations with Iran are marked by close historic and cultural linkages and strong people to people exchanges. Pakistan and Iran are also members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),” said the Foreign Office.
Iran celebrated Pakistan’s last Independence Day in an unprecedented manner with reports saying that there was display of large greeting hoardings along major highways in Iranian cities.
The foreign ministry makes no mention about the now nearly forgotten gas pipeline project between the two sides though there has been continuing interest by Iran to pursue it. Prime Minister Imran Khan faces several challenges with relations with Iran, so this maiden visit will be a chance at the highest level to smooth out the bilateral ties with Iran.