ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran have reiterated their commitment to maintaining peace along their border and agreed on new measures to strengthen border coordination and control.
The agreement was reached at the eighth round of Pakistan-Iran Bilateral Political Consultations here on Monday. Recent flare-up on the border was a major agenda item at the meeting which discussed different aspects of the relationship.
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Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpour led the delegations of their countries.
“The two sides reviewed the recent border incidents and reiterated their firm resolve to maintain a tranquil Pakistan-Iran border,” a statement about the outcome of the talks said.
Pakistan and Iran have on several occasions witnessed tense moments at their border, primarily due to activities of militants and smugglers. But it was rare for Pakistani troops to have traded fire with Iranian troops. This, according to analysts, marked escalation in the situation on the border.
The diplomatic side has reacted with caution and the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Sartaj Aziz, in an earlier statement, expressed the hope that bilateral ties would remain unaffected.
At the meeting, the two sides agreed on different steps for improving border control and coordination among their border officials to prevent a recurrence of the skirmishes witnessed since the beginning of October.
The agreed measures include enhanced communication and coordination between the relevant focal authorities on both sides and frequent exchanges and meetings of the established mechanisms, including the Joint Border Commission.
But the problem is too complex to be solved by merely improving communication between the two sides and tightening border control. It is rooted in mistrust between the two neighbours.
Iran has been accusing Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the presence of militant groups in its border area and allowing them to carry out activities inside Iran -- an allegation Pakistan strongly denies.
Iranian officials fear that the issue will not be adequately addressed without a shift in Pakistan’s policy.
Besides border management, other issues discussed at the dialogue included political exchanges, trade and economic cooperation, Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and energy collaboration.
“Consistent with the vision of the leadership in both countries, it was agreed to take further practical steps for comprehensive up-gradation of bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. A special emphasis was laid... on forging an economic-intensive partnership,” a Foreign Office statement said.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister also called on Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Syed Tariq Fatemi.
It was agreed during the meetings that the high-level exchanges scheduled over the coming months would help advance the shared goals.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2014