Pakistan continues to rebuff US, supports Iran’s stand on JCPOA

TEHRAN, Sep. 04 (MNA) – Much to the chagrin of hawks in Washington and Riyadh, neighbors Iran and Pakistan have reaffirmed their commitment to bolster bilateral ties and open a new chapter in their relationship.

The ties between the two countries, although historic, have been marked by ambiguity in recent years, especially during the previous government led by Nawaz Sharif, who was seen heavily tilted towards Riyadh. With the new government in Islamabad now, led by the charismatic cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, Iran-Pakistan ties are expected to become stronger.

As a sign of growing proximity between the two countries, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif became the first foreign official to visit Pakistan this week since the change of guard in Islamabad. Zarif, who has been to Pakistan eight times, held wide-ranging deliberations with the top political and military leadership of Pakistan, including prime minister, foreign minister, army chief and parliament speaker.

In a tweet, the social media-savvy foreign minister termed the meetings “fruitful”, in which the two sides laid emphasis on “expanding bilateral, regional, and global partnership”, adding that neighbors were Iran’s “priority”. Zarif’s visit to Pakistan came at a crucial time when the relations between Islamabad and Washington are undergoing a tectonic shift, and Pakistan is finally coming out of the ominous shadow of US and Saudi Arabia.

Imran Khan led government has made a great start by outlining its foreign policies very clearly. On Friday, following the meeting between Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan said it supported Iran’s “principled stance” regarding its nuclear deal with major world powers. “Pakistan stands with Iran in this hour of need,” Qureshi said, joining the growing league of countries that have backed Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program and refused to buckle under the US pressure to cut trade ties with Tehran.

An official statement issued by Khan’s office said the prime minister received the Iranian foreign minister for a meeting, who conveyed to him the greetings and best wishes of the people and leadership of Iran on assuming office.

Zarif stated that Iran wished continued progress and prosperity to the people of Pakistan and delivered a message of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, inviting Khan for the upcoming Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) summit in Iran in October 2018. Both Pakistan and Iran are members of ACD and Iran currently holds the chair of the organisation.

Khan thanked the Iranian supreme leader’s support for Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination and the manner in which Pakistan’s Independence Day was celebrated in Iran this year, the statement said, adding that Pakistan and Iran were “connected by inseparable bonds of historic, religious and cultural affinities”.

Zarif also held formal talks with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi during which they discussed wide-ranging issues. Both the sides underlined the importance of deepening cooperation in areas of mutual interest. The statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign office said the two officials held detailed discussions on regional and global issues — including the situation in Afghanistan and America’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the JCPOA.

It was agreed that the next round of Bilateral Political Consultations and the Joint Economic Commission will be held at early date.

While supporting Iran’s principled stance on the Iran nuclear deal, Qureshi expressed hope that remaining parties to the agreement would uphold their commitments in letter and spirit. “This is important given IAEA’s repeated verification that Iran has strictly adhered to the terms of agreement,” the foreign minister said.

A few weeks ago, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal had stressed that Pakistan reserves the right to ‘pursue legitimate economic and commercial interests’ with Iran in the wake of re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran by US “We are examining the implications of the US’ re-imposed sanctions on Iran,” he said, “however, Pakistan, being a sovereign state, reserves the right to pursue legitimate economic and commercial interests while respecting the international legal regime.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday, in a fresh blow to Pakistan-US relations, the US military said it has made a final decision to annul $300 million aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants. President Donald Trump had in his New Year tweet lambasted Pakistan and threatened to withhold military aid.

These developments are significant and must be seen in the context of changing regional dynamics – Pakistan getting closer to China, Iran and Pakistan embarking on a new journey, and the new government in Islamabad defying the coercive and manipulative tactics of Trump administration.

Imran Khan, who has on many occasions in the past criticized America’s policy for South Asia, had also opposed the idea of Pakistan sending troops to Yemen to fight Houthi rebels. Khan’s foreign policy, observer believe, is rooted in pragmatism and national interest. Better relations with Iran, they stress, are in Pakistan’s best national interest.

Following his historic victory in general election, Khan had vowed to improve ties with all regional countries, including Iran. Unlike his predecessor, he has shown an inclination to maintain a healthy balance in ties between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

During the meeting between Khan and Iranian envoy to Pakistan recently, Khan also expressed his willingness to revive the Iran-Pakistan gap pipeline project or ‘peace pipeline’, which can play a key role in resolving the energy crisis facing Pakistan. It is a historic opportunity for the two countries to transform their relationship into energy partners.

MNA/TT

News Code 137447

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