ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Monday pledged to further deepen their military cooperation.
This was the upshot of Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri’s visit to Pakistan.
The top Iranian commander’s three-day trip is being attached great importance because bilateral military exchanges between Pakistan and Iran have been very rare due to their mutual mistrust that kept them divided till recently.
Gen Bagheri visited caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon at the foreign ministry and then went to the General Headquarters (GHQ) for a meeting with army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
The public affairs division of Pakistan military said Gen Bajwa underscored the need for intensification of military-to-military cooperation and noted that such cooperation would have a “positive impact on peace and security in the region”.
In related development, Afghan president assures Islamabad of enhanced border security on election day
Reciprocating Gen Bajwa’s offer, the visiting Iranian commander “pledged to keep working for better relations between the two brotherly countries”, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Gen Bajwa is believed to be the architect of improvement in Pakistan-Iran ties particularly the military relations. Last year he had made an unprecedented visit to Iran setting the stage for improved cooperation. Later, Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar visited the country in June.
As the improvement in military relations was predicated on the basis of border security cooperation, discussion on border management was also on top of agenda during Gen Bagheri’s meeting with Gen Bajwa. Another key issue on the agenda of their meeting was regional security.
The journey towards improvement in military ties had not been free of irritants and problems but both the countries worked together to overcome those challenges and prevented nascent cooperation from falling apart, a diplomatic source said.
Recently the Iranian spymaster was in Islamabad to attend a rare meeting of the spy chiefs of the regional countries that involved Pakistan, Russia and China. The meeting reportedly focused on the threat posed by the growing footprint of the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
Mr Haroon during his meeting with the Iranian commander expressed Pakistan’s desire for strengthening cooperation with Iran for the benefit of both countries and ensuring peace and stability in the region. He also appreciated the Iranian leadership’s strong and consistent support on the issue of Kashmir.
Ghani condoles deaths in terror attacks
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured Pakistan of heightened security along the Pak-Afghan border during the July 25 general elections.
President Ghani extended the assurance during a telephonic conversation with Gen Bajwa on Monday.
He also called caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk to condole the deaths in recent attacks on election rallies in Peshawar, Bannu, and Mastung.
President Ghani “assured COAS of enhanced border security measures on Afghan side as assistance to Pak security forces during election period,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted.
Gen Bajwa thanked Mr Ghani for his concern, according to the ISPR.
Pakistan has long alleged that terrorists having sanctuaries in Afghanistan have been carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
Although Mastung attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State, Daesh, and its local affiliate Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, other attacks are believed to have been carried out by Afghanistan-based TTP and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. It is feared that the two terrorist groups were planning further attacks.
Earlier during the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Pakistan Army had also undertaken special border security arrangements for smooth conduct of polling process. On the elections day, Pakistan had increased patrols along the border areas, besides stepping up aerial surveillance.
In his conversation with caretaker PM Mulk, President Ghani “expressed deep sorrow and sympathy on the tragic loss of precious lives”, the PM Office said in a statement.
The two countries agreed to work together to defeat the common enemies for peace and security in the region, the statement added.
While talking to Mr Ghani, Mr Mulk reaffirmed caretaker government’s commitment to hold the general elections on time. He said the attacks by the enemies were aimed at derailing the democratic process in Pakistan. “Such actions would not deter government’s resolve,” he vowed.
Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018