ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday expressed ignorance about a reported meeting of spy chiefs of Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan in Islamabad over the growing threat to the region from the militant Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Officials, however, privately confirmed to Dawn that the unprecedented meeting took place on Tuesday, which could besides dealing with IS provide a basis for greater regional cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.

The meeting, which was supposed to be secret, was first reported by Russian newswire TASS. The Voice of America (VoA) also carried a report on the meeting.

TASS had quoted spokesman of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Ivanov as saying that heads of intelligence services of Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan met in Islamabad to discuss measures against assembling of IS terrorists returning from Iraq and Syria in Afghanistan.

TASS had said that the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, represented Russia at the meeting.

“The discussions focused on the dangers arising from a build-up of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory,” Ivanov said.

Russia has been extremely worried about IS threat emanating from the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Its officials held a number of meetings with Pakistani officials before the latest quadrilateral event.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had in February raised the issue of IS expanding its footprint in Afghanistan during the visit of the then Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Asif to Moscow.

“This trend of spread of ISIS is extremely worrying and the US and Nato tried to obfuscate and neglect the facts and presented information that did not correspond with the reality. ISIS presence is serious. …It boosts the risk of terrorists infiltrating into Central Asian countries from where they can enter the Russian Federation,” Lavrov had said and criticised US and Nato for failing to provide explanations about flight of unmarked helicopters to areas having IS presence.

Pakistan and Russia had later at the 7th meeting of their Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism in March also reiterated this concern.

Pakistan, it is said, had also been discussing the matter with China and Iran. In those meetings Pakistan had expressed alarm over relocation of IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, particularly its north-eastern parts.

The meeting of spymasters of the four countries, nevertheless, took many, particularly US, by surprise. The US, it is said, is particularly concerned over the emerging regional cooperation because it sees it as a potential challenge to its role in Afghanistan.

Russia and Iran have played a major role in the defeat of IS both in Syria and Iraq.

FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal, speaking at the weekly media briefing, renewed the call for Taliban to renounce kinetic options and join the peace and reconciliation process to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

He recalled that Pakistan and Afghanistan were discussing the Taliban issue under the newly-instituted bilateral mechanism — the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

Indian spy

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan on July 17 would be filing the second counter-rejoinder in International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, adds APP.

“Our team has prepared a comprehensive reply to Indian rejoinder, which will be filed on July 17,” the FO spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018

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