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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s Official Visit to Pakistan

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s official visit to Pakistan, which concluded today, has been marked by mutual praise and promises to improve bilateral ties, particularly in the economic sphere. The significance of the trip has been enhanced by the prevailing geopolitical tensions in the region, including Iran’s conflict with Israel, poor ties between Tehran and Western states, and the recent missile strike exchange between Iran and Pakistan in January.

During his visit, Raisi met with Pakistani President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and Army Chief Asim Munir, discussing trade and security issues. Raisi expressed his dissatisfaction with the current level of bilateral trade, which he described as “unacceptable,” and expressed his desire to see annual trade reach $10 billion.

Pakistan is also seeking to expand foreign trade to improve its economic position. While exploring trade partners across the oceans is important, Pakistan should not overlook the potential of regional commerce. South Asia is one of the world’s least integrated regions, and improving trade relations with neighbors like Iran and Afghanistan can open pathways for Pakistani products to markets in Central Asia and greater Eurasia.

Regarding security matters, violent non-state actors operating in common border areas pose challenges to both states’ security. Therefore, it is welcome that an accord was signed on security cooperation during Raisi’s visit. Both countries’ security forces should cooperate with each other to neutralize malign actors and manage border security.

The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was obliquely referred to in a Pakistani statement, but there has been no significant breakthrough. Raisi mentioned that some actors do not want to see Pakistan-Iran relations grow, dismissing critics. The US has again cautioned that anyone doing business with Iran risks being sanctioned by America.

Pakistan must take a long-term view of this problem. While ties with the US are important, should Pakistan seek American approval for all key economic and strategic decisions? Today, the US does not want the Iran pipeline to proceed. Tomorrow, if ties between Washington and Beijing nosedive, and the US asks Pakistan to reconsider CPEC or our defense cooperation with China, will we comply?

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