Source: The Express Tribune
Defying the increasing international pressure to isolate Iran, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari talked trade, investment and energy with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, on the sidelines of the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Presidents Zardari and Ahmadinejad reaffirmed their commitment to complete work on several joint projects, including the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and road links.
The U.S. has been persistently trying to convince Islamabad to abandon the IP gas pipeline project, and sweetening the offer with various other gas projects originating from Central Asian states and passing through Afghanistan.
Islamabad, until now, has appeared to defy the pressure.
The president noted that the current volume of trade between the two countries is far below the existing potential and said there is a need to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers and identify alternative arrangements to expand the bilateral trade.
The two sides also reviewed progress on the mega projects, including the IP gas pipeline, the 1,000MW Taftan-Quetta power transmission line, the 100MW Gwadar power supply project, construction of Noshki-Dalbandin section of Quetta-Taftan Highway and up-gradation of the Quetta-Taftan railway track.
The leadership also discussed issues related to visa facilitation and opening of the new border posts to connect Karachi and Gawadar with Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas through the coastal highway.
The two sides also agreed in principle to operate new flights between Islamabad and Tehran, Peshawar and Mashhad, and Quetta and Gilgit to Mashhad.
The regional situation especially that of Afghanistan and Syria also came under discussion.
Pakistan desires an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria and will continue advocating principles of non intervention and non interference in the internal affairs of states, the president said.
President Zardari also expressed condolences over the losses that Iran suffered due to the recent earthquake and offered all possible assistance.
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