Humanitarian assistance by friendly neighbors
A friend in need is a Friend indeed. This well applies to our next-door neighbor Iran, which was among the first countries to announced and send humanitarian aid to Pakistan for flood affected people in this hour of need and distress.
In fact, the entire nation is thankful to Iran and other world states for their assistance in light of the devastating flash floods. As a matter of fact, Iran always remains on the forefront when it comes to help our nation in time of need. Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan after its creation in August 1947. Iran always stands by Pakistan at international forums and the people-to-people contact is very strong between the two states as we are Muslim brethren countries and also share cultural and social ties. But our economic ties still need to be explored and further strengthened.
However, off late efforts are on to explore new venues and taken economic ties to new height between the friendly Muslim countries and neighbors.
It is welcome to note that the two countries have held the 21st meeting of their Joint Economic Commission due to which new dimensions can be added to economic relations. In the backdrop of changing world economic scenario due to increasing prices of energy and food sector products mainly oil, there is a strong need for enhancing trade ties with Iran who can help us in this critical juncture of period. Recently, the two neighbours celebrated the 75th anniversary of the unwavering diplomatic ties with renewed pledges which are of greater significance in future relationship between the two sides.
Time has come to focus on the vast spectrum of bilateral ties ranging from cultural affinity to shared religious background, people-to-people contract, Iran's support to Pakistan on Kashmir dispute and also mainly focused on facilitating trade endeavors and exploiting the existing potentials of trade between the two sides and taking them to new heights.
There is no denying that Iran is not only our most trusted next-door neighbor with whom Pakistan has no dispute, but there exists a vast scope for trade and bilateral ties as there is no trust deficit between the two. Their ties date back to the days when Pakistan emerged on the map of world because Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan after it came into being in August 1947. And the first head of any state to visit Pakistan after its independence was also Shah of Iran who paid an official visit to Pakistan in 1950. Iran's unwavering support to Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute is also a known fact.
It may be mentioned here that the 909-kilometre Pak-Iran border is one of long-lasting symbol of peace and solace as both the government and people trust each other in real sense of the word.
Off-late some quarters were trumpeting the issue of border fencing between the two states but there's no dispute on border fencing between Muslim brother countries. In fact, the Iran has always welcomed border fencing, terming it a welcome measure for redressing the security concerns if any on both sides. And most significantly, the two people enjoy close cultural and religious ties and there is a vast scope for cooperation between the two states in various sectors. But it is very unfortunate and ironical that despite all available scope for enhancing ties, the two countries have yet to capitalize on the existing opportunities as the trade volume between the two states is very thin and drastic efforts should be made to expand the same.
Off late, the two sides have started channelizing their energies for enhancing trade volume which is a good augury as the two neighbourly countries have agreed to formulate strategies to expand the volume of annual trade exchanges to $5 billion by next year. Pakistan and Iran are two important countries in the region, to utilize the exiting scope for expanding their economic capacities in sectors which need to be further explored in the wake of changing world scenario.
For this, the existing obstacles in the way of free trade between the two states must be removed on priority basis.
There is vast scope for cooperation in the field of energy, and the various regional development endeavors and mega projects like CPEC, which is said to be game-changer for the region's countries especially Pakistan. While Pakistan can utilize the energy sector cooperation from Iran, the latter can avail the IT workforce experience as Iran is in urgent need of specialised personnel in the field of technology. Some experts suggest that both sides can form a joint science and technology park on the common border which will of great benefit to Iran which is looking for IT-related help from Pakistan. For this the two sides can share and can benefit from experiences of the IT experts, and other educated young people in the field of technology and science.
On the other hand, Pakistan is looking for enhancing trade volume as despite huge Iranian market, our country has a narrow export basket to this brother Muslim country. A whopping 63 per cent of our overall exports to Iran consists of rice alone. It may be recalled here that in 2006, A preferential trade agreement (PTA), which took place in 2006, also exists between the two states under which various Tariff concessions are also provided to Iran on over three hundred items. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it has been granted concessions on around 340 tariff lines.
This PTA mostly revolves around grains, fruits, rice, pharmaceutical products, cotton, cotton yarn, and cutlery. But the irony is that this FTA is yet to be fully utilized as it is being obstructed by the unavailability of a payment mechanism, which must be solved on priority basis. For this a regular banking channel must be set up to facilitate the mode of payment.
Published in The Daily National Courier, September, 22 2022