ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Saturday that stronger Pak-Iran defence ties would serve regional peace and stability.

Talking to Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost, the army chief said: “Enhanced Pak-Iran military-to-military cooperation will have positive impact on regional peace and stability.”

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the two discussed issues related to regional security and matters of mutual interest during the meeting.

“Pakistan Army greatly values historical relationship between the two brotherly countries which can never be compromised at any cost,” Gen Bajwa assured the envoy.

Pakistan and Iran have minimal defence ties because of deep-rooted mistrust resulting from their divergent alignment in regional and international politics. The relationship has been further complicated by the presence of groups on the Pakistani side of the border that carry out terrorist activities on the Iranian side. The two neighbours have struggled to come up with a mechanism to effectively deal with the issue.

Last month Defence Minister Khawaja Asif excused himself from visiting Iran for defence talks and the government had to send Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in his place along with Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Zameerul Hassan Shah. Mr Aziz’s talks in Tehran were dominated by the border issue and it was agreed that meetings of the Border Security Commission would be convened to discuss measures for dealing with terrorists.

The 20th joint border commission meeting concluded on the evening of Feb 27 in the Iranian port city of Chahbahar. Islamabad and Tehran decided to set up three more immigration offices at the border between the two countries. They also decided to establish more markets at the border to generate economic activity for people living on both sides of the border.

Mr Honardoost appreciated the Pakistan government’s resolve and military’s Operation Raddul Fasaad for elimination of terrorism. The Pakistan Army, he noted, was contributing to regional peace and security.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organisation’s summit, had reaffirmed their “mutual desire to strengthen bilateral relations”.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2017

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