The high-profile visit to Iran by the Pakistani Prime Minister last week is actually seen to give this strategic message to Washington that Islamabad is determined to exploit all its available options to secure its interests irrespective of the US pressures.
A well-placed official told Pakistan Today that the government was considering "regional cooperation" as its option to meet all its requirements in the near future as the country had a strategic geographical location that provided a host of opportunities to its people. The official said the premier's visit to Iran went well according to the government's expectations and Iran offered to open up all its energy sources, including petroleum, gas and electricity reserves for Pakistan, which was facing acute shortage of energy - especially electricity and gas.
This visit was a follow-up of President Asif Ali Zardari's initiative to launch a diplomatic offensive for regional cooperation between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and use Pakistan's strategic geographical location to the benefit of the three brotherly countries, said the official, adding that the president had already conducted extensive visits to other important regional players, including China, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf states and Turkey to boost bilateral cooperation and trade in order to exploit the strategic geographic location of Pakistan.
"Iran has offered supply of petroleum products at cheaper rates in exchange for importing Pakistani fruits and in order to finalize petrol tariff, a ministerial committee has been formed," said a source, adding that this was a major achievement made during the visit.
Asked how this trade was possible as the US had already conveyed to Pakistan that it might face UN sanctions if it opted for trade with Iran, the official said the visit by the prime minister spoke clearly about what Islamabad was opting for.
"During the visit, the prime minister was given unprecedented hospitability," said the source, adding that the Iranian government made sure that the significance of the visit was obvious.
"During the visit, the leaders of both neighboring countries stressed the need for joint efforts to boost bilateral cooperation. It was also discussed that if Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan closely work for the benefit of each other, they did not need to seek cooperation and assistance form the West," added the official.
The official said that after souring of Pakistan-US ties and cuts of US aid to Pakistan, the government had been making hectic efforts to boost its trade ties with friendly states. "President Asif Ali Zardari has emerged as the champion of boosting regional cooperation and regional trade to help Islamabad strengthen its ties and increase trade with its neighbors. The president also proposed a four-point strategy during his recent visit to Tajikistan, calling for increased economic cooperation among Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Russia," he said.
He said that while addressing the third quadrilateral summit in Dushanbe, President Zardari had called for a regional connectivity framework to physically connect the member states by road, railway and air.
"Russia and Tajikistan are already connected and Pakistan might consider a road link from Dushanbe to Chitral through Iskatul Gulkhana in Afghanistan. This would be the shortest road by land, and [Pakistan might] also link the ports of Gwadar and Karachi to Dushanbe and onwards to Russia," the president had proposed according to the source.
Islamabad felt that regional cooperation was the key to all its problems in case Pakistan lost funding from the US, and that the government was moving in the right direction, the official added.