Islamabad (AP) — The top leaders of Pakistan and Iran on Thursday inaugurated the first border market as relations warm between the two countries, officials said.
Located in the remote village of Pashin in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, the marketplace is the first of six to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also inaugurated an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian electricity.
In a televised meeting, Sharif, sitting next to Raisi, assured him Pakistan would do its best to improve security along the Iranian border. He added that both sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties, and extended an invitation to Raisi to visit the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Iran-Pakistani relations have been contentious because of cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants along their shared border.
Small separatist groups have been behind a long-running insurgency calling for Baluchistan’s independence from the central government in Islamabad. Pakistani anti-Iran militants have also targeted the Iranian border in recent years, increasing the friction between the two countries.
This is the first visit of its kind since 2013, when the two nations signed an agreement allowing Pakistan to import Iranian gas despite American opposition. Tehran at the time said that “the West has no right to block the project.” The agreement could not be implemented because of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Pakistan has close ties with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, but has tried to maintain a relationship with the predominantly Shiite Iran. Riyad and Tehran, long-time rivals, restored ties earlier this year in a Chinese-brokered agreement.