I would like to welcome all of you at Islamabad Policy Institute. Our guest speaker this afternoon is Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran His Excellency Seyyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini. He has quite recently assumed charge of his office.
Mr Ambassador welcome to Pakistan! We wish you a very fruitful and productive tenure in Islamabad.
I would also like to thank Mr Hosseini for accepting our invitation to speak at IPI. This is his first public speaking engagement in Islamabad.
There are two events that form the backdrop of today’s discussion. The first is the evolving situation in the region after the assassination of Gen Qassem Soleimani in Iraq by the United States and secondly Iran would next week be celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
There is a whole range of issues for the ambassador to speak about today. We have requested him to speak about prospects of Pakistan -Iran Peace & Security Cooperation.
You would agree that instability is the new normal the world over, but more specifically in the neighbourhood in which Pakistan and Iran are located. This growing disorder is shaping how various governments view peace and stability. The governments may differ in approaches, but all agree that it is time to restore calm. It is in the interest of both Pakistan and Iran to collaborate for an end to the conflict around us.
Mr Hosseini would share Tehran’s approach towards peacebuilding and dealing with threats to peace.
However, before requesting him, I’d like to make few observations. Pakistan and Iran have a strong relationship based on historical, cultural, linguistic, religious and civilizational linkage. Their ties have, however, undergone a major transformation over the past 72 years. Most of these changes were influenced by regional and the geo-political environment.
It is, however, a testament to the resilience and strength of Pak-Iran bilateral relations that the two countries, despite being on the opposite sides of the geo-political divide since 1980s, have maintained cooperative ties and in a number of instances supported each other on issues of importance to them.
We can find numerous such examples over the past decade when the two countries cooperated to deal with critical challenges. Pakistan decided against joining the coalition that fought the Yemen war and has on at least couple of occasions over the past three years attempted to defuse tensions in the Persian Gulf. Similarly, Iran took a clear stand in support of the Kashmiris struggle for the right of self-determination and rejected the annexation of the Occupied Valley through the annulment of Article 370.
Even more remarkable was the way in which the two sides worked together to address border security issues and prevented terrorism incidents on either sides of the border from turning into a major source of friction between them.
These instances provide hope in the midst of some other not so encouraging instances like failure to increase bilateral trade, open banking channels, start ferry service between the two countries and undertake energy projects.
Indeed, Pakistan and Iran have much to gain through the expansion of ties, and an earnest effort in that direction is possible, provided the will is there.
One possible avenue could be a regional security arrangement that could bring together all regional players and under which they could work together to address their security concerns.
For this to happen strategic convergence and trust would have to be developed.
Ambassador Hosseini would now tell us how Iran thinks such an inclusive arrangement that can guarantee security of all countries in our neighbourhood could be worked out.