By: Arif Qoreshi
Islamabad: In a major diplomatic set back for Iran and Pakistan, the Iranian Vice President Ali Saeedlou has cancelled his visit of Pakistan at the eleventh hour although Pakistani Ambassador to Tehran Khaled Aziz Baber said on Tuesday that Iranian Vice-President for International Affairs is scheduled to visit Islamabad.
His visit was cancelled at the moment when the arrival of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also expected in G-8 conference scheduled on 22nd of November.
Iranian Vice President Ali Saeedlou’s visit was also very important for many reasons. According to high placed sources in foreign ministry Iran has shown more flexibility and seriousness on the issue of Pak-Iran gas project, and now Iran has decided to provide 250 million dollars for Iran-Pakistan gas project.
According to our sources Iran has also decided to provide Pakistan 1000mw electricity project on lower prices and is interested to install 100 MW electricity power plant in Gawdar sea port in Baluchistan.
At present the trade volume between to two countries is about 2 billions dollars which Iran wanted to increase at least 3 to 5 billions dollars annually as desired by a top Iranian official. In this regard Deputy head of Foreign Trade Development Houshang Rezaie Tamrin said last month in Tehran that Iran-Pakistan currently stands at less than two billion dollars and planning has been made to augment the figure to three to five billion dollars annually. Iranian vice present was coming with suggestion how can both countries get the desired target.
Some analysts are of the opinion that the Iran and Russia have very close relations and one of the reason apart from security Russian President Vladimir Putin had cancelled his visit to Islamabad in October due to slow progress in Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project which the Russian official energy giant Gazprom is keen to finance and build Pakistani side after the refusal of Chinese bank who first announced to finance.
An Iranian official, speaking to a local news paper daily Dawn from Tehran, confirmed that the cancellation was from the Iranian side. Though reluctant to disclose specific reasons for the cancellation, but gave unhappy reference saying that, “The vice president can’t go to Pakistan for ceremonial purpose”.
Another reason quoted by daily dawn is absolutely convincing and confirmed by foreign ministry official that Tehran too has been not too eager to do its part. Iran has been less keen to buy one million tons of Pakistani wheat which it had agreed to take in exchange for fertilizer and iron. Discussions over wheat barter have remained deadlocked between both countries because of the price being demanded by Pakistan and quality of the grain being offered.
Another hurdle is the foreign factor United States does not wanted to proceed Iran-Pakistan gas pipe line project and he directs Pakistan to follow much longer and complicated TAPI gas pipe line project instead of Iran.
The writer is an editor of thefortress.com.pk