Former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has said that the perception in Pakistan that Iran’s Chabahar Port project, that connects India to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, is a “rival project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”, is not correct. “The Chabahar Port project is aimed at connecting Iran with Central Asia, and the ultimate goal is to uplift the Iranian economy,” Kharazi said at an event here. The project was under deliberation for a long time, therefore, it was not correct to link its launch with that of the CPEC, he was cited as saying by Dawn online on Saturday. India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement in 2016 to jointly develop the Chabahar Port, opening a new strategic transit route between the three nations and other Central Asian nations, bypassing Pakistan.
On the other hand, the CPEC connects China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan through a network of roads, railways and highways. India strongly objects to the route of the CPEC corridor, which goes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Kharazi, Iran’s Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2005, said that though it was true that India had massively invested in the Chabahar project, it was an open platform for all regional countries to participate in. “While we are engaging with India on the economic front and India is investing in Chabahar, we have not given exclusive rights on the project to them,” he said.
Talking about the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, Kharazi said that Iran had “urged India a number of times to resolve the dispute in a peaceful and justly manner” and that Tehran was even willing to mediate between the two sides. “But if we talk about economic partnerships, then Pakistan also has relations with the US which has put a number of sanctions on us, but (Iran) doesn’t mind it,” he said. He pointed out that bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan suffered over reluctance of Pakistani banks to do business with Iranian entities due to a fear of US sanctions.
Kharazi said that another issue that had negatively impacted the bilateral trade was the “lack of political will from Pakistani side due to intense pressure from Washington and middle-eastern countries”.