The Cable

Pakistan Anticipates ‘Massive Trade’ With Iran Following Deal

Striking a notably upbeat tone, a top aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif praised the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States on Friday, calling it an agreement that will advance the cause of both peace and economic growth in the region. “We are convinced that it is the right thing,” said the special ...

Special assistant to Prime Minister, Syed Tariq Fatemi, arrives to attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on October 16, 2014 in Milan. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was created in 1996 as a forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia held every two years alternatively in Asia and Europe.  AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE        (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Special assistant to Prime Minister, Syed Tariq Fatemi, arrives to attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on October 16, 2014 in Milan. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was created in 1996 as a forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia held every two years alternatively in Asia and Europe. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Striking a notably upbeat tone, a top aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif praised the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States on Friday, calling it an agreement that will advance the cause of both peace and economic growth in the region.

“We are convinced that it is the right thing,” said the special assistant to the prime minister, Syed Tariq Fatemi, speaking to a small group of reporters in Washington. “We are also convinced that an end to sanctions will open up new opportunities for Pakistan to enhance its commercial and economic ties to Iran.”

Much has been made of the spike in European business interest in Iran following the July 14 accord that will ease economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. But Pakistan, too, is urgently keen to open up trade with Iran, Fatemi said.

“We have a long border, and we could have massive trade with that country, should this issue of sanctions no longer be hovering over us,” said Fatemi.

Islamabad’s warm relations with Tehran date back to Pakistan’s founding in 1947, when its sovereign status was quickly recognized by Iran. During the Cold War, Iran backed Pakistan in its rivalry with India, and the favor was returned in the 1980s through Islamabad’s support for Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War.

Pakistan’s interest in the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Tehran most immediately pertains to long-stalled efforts to operate a gas pipeline into Iran’s southern energy fields. Islamabad’s nagging power crisis has hampered economic growth and caused recurring outages, infuriating the country’s 200 million residents.

In March 2013, Pakistan announced a $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan pipeline, but international sanctions have prevented Islamabad from raising the money required to construct its share of the project.

“This pipeline would not only benefit Pakistan in terms of providing us a valuable source of energy,” said Fatemi. “We also believe that such a pipeline could also encourage cooperation among the countries of the region that would really strengthen peace and stability.”

This summer has been particularly distressing for the South Asian country, which has faced a devastating heat wave that has killed more than 1,200 people. The dramatic increase in temperatures — climbing as high as 113 degrees — has caused a surge in electricity demand, leading to lengthy blackouts.

“As soon as the sanctions are lifted, we will explore avenues and opportunities of strengthening our economic [and] commercial ties with Iran,” added Fatemi.

Photo credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

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