Electricity import on Bilawal’s agenda while his visit to Iran

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is scheduled to undertake a two-day visit to Iran from Tuesday (today) for talks on a range of issues, including electricity supply from the neighbouring country amid a severe energy crisis in the country.

This will be Bilawal’s first visit to Tehran as foreign minister. He is undertaking the visit at the invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Amir Abdollahian.

During the visit, the foreign minister will hold a detailed exchange of views with his Iranian counterpart on all areas of mutual interest, an official handout issued by the Foreign Office said on the eve of the visit.

During his stay in Tehran, he will also call on the Iranian president and meet other dignitaries. On Wednesday (tomorrow) the foreign minister will visit Mashhad, the Foreign Office statement added.

During the delegation-level talks, the two sides will review all facets of bilateral relations, including trade and economic ties, electricity supply from Iran, border sustenance markets, road and rail connectivity and facilitation of Zaireen.

Iran is currently supplying electricity to Gwadar and Pakistan is keen to further enhance that cooperation. The country is currently in the grip of energy shortages, causing long power outages.

But there was no mention of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project that was signed during the Pakistan People Party’s (PPP) term between 2008 and 2013. Iran has completed work on its side of the border but Pakistan could not undertake the project, fearing the US economic sanctions.

Even the PTI government, which otherwise talked of pursuing an independent foreign policy, failed to pursue the pipeline project, which if completed, would significantly help address the gas shortage in Pakistan.

In the meantime, Foreign Minister Bilawal will also review regional security situation with particular focus on developments in Afghanistan and South Asia as well as combating Islamophobia.

Bilawal’s visit to Iran is part of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries. The last meeting between the two foreign ministers was held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos on 26 May.

“Pakistan and Iran enjoy close cooperative ties, based on shared geography, cultural affinities, and historic people-to-people linkages. These fraternal relations have been further strengthened through frequent high-level exchanges. The two countries are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2022,” according to the statement.

Despite the positive portrayal of ties in the official statement, relations between Pakistan and Iran have faced many challenges. The major challenge includes maintaining a delicate balance in ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But with Iran and Saudi Arabia trying to mend fences, this may make Pakistan’s problem less complicated.