Pakistan, Iran vow to boost counterterrorism cooperation

Updated March 16, 2019

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Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua discuss "issues of mutual interest" with Iran's deputy foreign minister over phone. — Dawn/File
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua discuss "issues of mutual interest" with Iran's deputy foreign minister over phone. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Friday renewed their resolve to intensify their cooperation in counterterrorism and other aspects of bilateral relationship.

This was the upshot of a telephonic conversation between Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi. The telephonic contact followed last week’s conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Hassan Rouhani in which the two leaders had agreed to “closer cooperation among the two [countries’] intelligence agencies in combating terrorism”.

Although there was no formal statement, both Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman and Mr Aragchi tweeted about the telephonic conversation.

FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted: “FS Tehmina Janjua spoke to Iran’s DFM Araghchi. Issues of mutual interest were discussed. The two agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas. FS Janjua illustrated Pakistan’s continued desire for peace and de-escalation of tensions in the region.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi says Iran calls for de-escalation and peaceful resolution of Pakistan-India conflict

Mr Araghchi tweeted: “Today I spoke with Tehmina Janjua, foreign secretary of Pakistan, over phone. Iran and Pakistan are close neighbours and friends. We agreed to strengthen our cooperation in all fields including fighting terrorism. Iran calls for de-escalation and peaceful resolution of Pakistan-India conflict.”

Relations between Pakistan and Iran turned lukewarm after the PTI government took office last year amidst an aggravating financial crisis and had to turn towards rich Arab states for financial help. However, recent terrorist incidents — the attack on an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bus last month in Sistan-Baluchestan and the kidnapping of Iranian border guards in October — worsened the situation. Last-minute cancellation of PM Khan’s visit to Iran planned for January did not help resolve the matters either.

Iranian envoy

Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost, while speaking on ‘Pak-Iran Relations: Current scenario and future prospects’ at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), has called for putting counterterrorism cooperation at the top of Pak-Iran bilateral agenda.

“Iran and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. This concern should be at the top of the agenda of negotiations and consultations between the relevant authorities,” he said.

Mr Honardoost said the “hand of a third party” was evident in recent terrorism incidents in areas near Pak-Iran border. About the “third party”, he said it was the “one that was not easy with brotherly and friendly ties between Pakistan and Iran” and was also involved with patronising “extremism and terrorism”.

He said he was confident that Pakistan and Iran would together foil the sinister designs of “the third party”.

Speaking about the recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Khan and President Rouhani, the ambassador said the two leaders had reaffirmed their pledge to cooperate for border security. He said Iran was having good communication with Pakistan on all issues and the two countries were exploring new areas of cooperation.

About Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in Gwadar, Mr Honardoost said Iran was not concerned about “constructive engagement” of any country with Pakistan. “We expect solidarity, cooperation, and interaction between Pakistan and other Muslim countries to improve.” He, however, emphasised that it was Pakistan’s obligation as a responsible country that “the cooperation is not misused against any other country”.

The ambassador spoke about trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iran. Emphasising the importance of completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, he said it could “provide the foundation for revival of Pakistan’s economy” by strengthening Pakistan’s energy security and ending power shortages. “We are waiting for Pakistan to move on the project,” he added.

He reiterated that Pakistan’s Gwadar and Iran’s Chahbahar ports “were not rival ports”, and instead had a “sisterhood relationship”.

The ambassador said a passenger and goods ferry service between Karachi and Chahbahar was being negotiated. “The inauguration of ferry service and initiation of supply of electricity to Gwadar from Iran would be the best way to celebrate the sisterhood of two ports,” he added.

In a related development, Pakistan and Iran have reiterated their desire to enhance bilateral trade which would greatly benefit the two neighboring countries. This was discussed at a meeting between visiting Managing Director of Iran Foreign Investment Company Hassan Abghari and Finance Minister Asad Umar here on Friday.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2019