The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and Iran’s Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) held Annual Dialogue on bilateral and regional issues today. The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa (CAMEA) facilitated this dialogue.
The distinguished speakers included Dr. Muhammad Hassan Shaykh al-Islami, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran and President IPIS; Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General ISSI; Dr. Omid Babelian, Research Fellow IPIS; Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, Ambassador Hamid Reza Arshadi, Senior Research Fellow, IPIS, Ambassador Riffat Masood, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Iran; and Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman ISSI.
The dialogue was divided into three working sessions. The first session was titled “Pakistan-Iran Bilateral Relations”, moderated by Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA. The second session was titled “Changing Dynamics in the Middle East: Prospects for Regional Integration and Connectivity ” and was moderated by Arhama Siddiqa, RF CAMEA. The third session was titled “The Evolving Situation in Afghanistan” and was moderated by Sarah Akram, RF CAMEA.
In the Inaugural Session, Director General ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood and Deputy Foreign Minister/President IPIS Dr. Muhammad Hassan Shaykh al-Islami, made opening statements –noting the unprecedented flux, fragility and polarization in the global environment and the profound changes taking place at the international and regional levels. They underscored the importance of close Pakistan-Iran consultations in this milieu and expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of the bilateral relationship. The two principals also exchanged perspectives on the situation in Afghanistan and the tragedy unfolding in Palestine. They underscored the need for the world community’s urgent intervention to stop unabated oppression against Palestinian civilian population and provide immediate relief assistance. The proactive role of the UN and OIC in ensuring urgent action to address the current unacceptable situation was emphasised.
Ambassador Sohail Mahmood and Dr. Shaykh al-Islami also underscored the value attached to the institutional relationship between ISSI and IPIS and reaffirmed their commitment to intensify mutual exchanges and expand the scope of mutual collaboration between the two think-tanks.
During the first working session, speakers highlighted recent progress in the Pakistan-Iran bilateral relationship, including bilateral trade surpassing $2 billion, despite the challenge of sanctions. Collaboration on opening border crossings, opening of border market and importance of Iran-Pakistan Pipeline (IPI) gas were further highlighted. Pakistan-Iran mutual cooperation collaboration in ECO, SCO, OIC, UN and other multilateral fora was also positively evaluated.
During the second working session, speakers underlined the imperative for dynamic regional leadership, alongside the recognition of the pivotal importance of addressing the prevailing energy disparities within the region. A wide array of potential areas for regional collaboration was deliberated upon and the presenters called for concrete actions, self-sufficiency, and the political resolve to harness the region’s considerable potential for substantial collaboration through relevant regional multilateral platforms.
During the third working session, the speakers pointed out that Afghanistan plays a pivotal role as a junction connecting Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics, rendering it a potential foundation for mutually-beneficial regional cooperation. It was also underscored that despite ongoing bilateral engagements, the absence of a coherent regional framework for addressing Afghanistan related issues highlights the necessity for comprehensive a regional initiative. The imperative of sustained engagement was emphasized, as the continued reliance on bilateral engagement may become the prevailing norm without a transition towards a regional mechanism.
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG ISSI, made concluding remarks highlighting the fruitful exchanges during the working sessions and the important contribution that the ISSI-IPIS Dialogue makes to overall bilateral cooperation.