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Iran, Pakistan inaugurate joint border market, power transmission line

May 18, 2023 at 1:48 pm

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ibrahim Reisi attend opening ceremony of the free trade zone and electricity transmission line in the city of Pishin, on the Iran-Pakistan border on May 18, 2023. [Iranian Presidency/Handout – Anadolu Agency]

Iran and Pakistan, on Thursday, inaugurated a joint border market as well as an electricity transmission line in the presence of top government officials, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace is one of six border markets planned for the two neighbouring countries’ shared border, as agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding signed on 21 April, 2021.

Pishin is a city in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, and Mand is a town in Pakistan’s southern Balochistan province, where the market opened on Thursday.

The market was thrown open by Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, and Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, in the presence of senior officials from both countries.

The border market, which is set up on 10 acres (4 hectares) of land, is expected to bolster cross-border trade between the two countries and provide new opportunities for local businesses to flourish.

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Raisi and Sharif also inaugurated the Polan-Gabd Electricity Transmission Line which is expected to carry an additional 100MW of electricity from Iran to Pakistan.

This transmission line will supplement the electricity purchased from Iran for the border Makran region via the 132 KV Makran Division electricity transmission line. The additional 100 MW of electricity provided by Polan-Gabd will help to offset the energy needs of Balochistan’s households and businesses.

Polan is a town in Sistan-Baluchestan’s port city of Chabahar, while Gabd is on the Pakistani side, 87 kilometres (54 miles) from Gwadar, a key route in the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Last week, the two countries agreed to revive an ambitious gas pipeline project, expand bilateral trade, and collaborate in the field of aviation.

The 2,275-kilometre (1,414-mile) Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which was first proposed in the 1990s to transport natural gas from Iran to Pakistan, has faced multiple delays due to US sanctions.

Currently, bilateral trade between the two neighbours is less than $400 million.

In September, 2020, former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, approved the establishment of 18 markets, six along the Iranian border and 12 along the Afghan border.

‘Opening of new chapter’

On the sidelines of the joint inauguration, Raisi and Sharif held talks on bilateral issues and reaffirmed their commitment to boost economic cooperation between the two countries, officials said.

A statement issued by the Iranian President’s office on Thursday said the border market is an “important development” that can provide livelihood to thousands of border residents and help them “improve their economic situation”.

Later, at a joint press conference with Sharif following the inauguration, Raisi said the two countries are committed to strengthening bilateral ties and that the capacity exists to expand cooperation in the energy sector.

He said more border markets are presently under construction in order to facilitate cross-border trade between the two countries and create job opportunities. Iran considers the border with Pakistan as an “opportunity” rather than a threat, he added.

For his part, Sharif said the inauguration of the two projects marks a new chapter in the already growing trade and business relations between the two “brotherly” countries.

He said Islamabad will negotiate the signing of a free-trade agreement with Tehran in order to increase bilateral trade and business.

While inviting Raisi to visit Islamabad, Sharif said he has also spoken with the Iranian leader and “made some proposals” regarding Tehran’s inclusion in the $64 billion dollar CPEC project.

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