According to officials, Pakistan and Iran senior leaders launched the first border market on Thursday as relations between the two countries improve.
The marketplace is located in the remote town of Pashin in Pakistan’s southern Baluchistan region. The first of six to be built along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 deal reached by the two countries.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also launched an electrical transmission line that will bring Iranian electricity to some of Pakistan’s most distant areas.
In a televised meeting, Sharif assured Raisi that Pakistan would do all possible to improve security along the Iranian border. He went on to say that both sides agreed to strengthen commercial and economic connections, and he invited Raisi to visit Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
Cross-border attacks by Pakistani extremists along their common border have strained relations between Iran and Pakistan.
A long-running insurgency pushing for Baluchistan’s independence from the central government in Islamabad has been led by small separatist parties. In recent years, Pakistani anti-Iran extremists have also attacked the Iranian border, escalating tensions between the two countries.
This is the first such visit since 2013 when the two countries agreed to allow Pakistan to receive Iranian gas despite American opposition. At the time, Tehran stated that “the West has no right to block the project.” Because of US sanctions against Iran, the agreement could not be executed.
Pakistan has tight connections with Sunni giant Saudi Arabia while still attempting to preserve ties with mostly Shiite Iran. Long-time adversaries Riyadh and Tehran reestablished ties earlier this year thanks to a Chinese-brokered accord.