ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Iranian leaders agreed on closer security cooperation and intensification of border security on Tuesday. They also discussed the release of Iranian border guards held by terrorist groups and developments in Afghanistan.

Gen Bajwa was on a two-day trip to Iran for talks on defence ties between the two countries. He had commenced his trip a day earlier by meeting Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Maj Gen Mohammad Hossein Baqeri.

The army chief was accompanied by Director-General Analysis at ISI Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed and Director General Military Intelligence Maj Gen Sarfraz Ali.

On the second day of his visit, the army chief met President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Admiral Ali Shamkhani and Army Commander Maj Gen Abdolrahim Mousavi.

Release of border guards, Afghan peace discussed at meeting

Army Spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted that the army chief in his meeting with the Iranian president discussed “regional security environment” and matters of mutual interest.

Gen Bajwa told President Rouhani that Pakistan was prepared to strengthen bilateral relations in all spheres, according to Iranian official newswire IRNA.

About border security, he said that Pakistani and Iranian officials had already held “good meetings” for further securing their borders, added the newswire.

Gen Ghafoor further said in his tweet that the Iranian president praised Pakistan’s contributions towards regional peace and its fight against terrorism.

Mr Rouhani, IRNA reported, also emphasised measures for enhancing bilateral trade, facilitating business-to-business contacts and completion of the gas pipeline.

In the meeting between Gen Bajwa and Foreign Minister Zarif, the two sides reviewed prospects for strengthening political, trade and military relations.

The two also exchanged views on border security, the release of remaining Iranian border guards still held by terrorist groups and current regional developments including Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in his conversation with Secretary National Security Council Mr Shamkhani, the army chief vowed to enhance monitoring of Pak-Iran border and take measures against terrorist groups active in the region. Mr Shamkhani called for collaborative efforts against destabilising influence of external actors.

Gen Bajwa and Maj Gen Mousavi in their meeting deliberated ways to develop bilateral military cooperation and enhancing border security. Gen Mousavi proposed an exchange of military academy cadets between the two countries.

Gen Bajwa told Gen Mousavi that in view of common threats faced by the two countries, it was imperative for them to have closer cooperation for tackling the challenges.

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Iran in April this year along with ISI chief Lt Gen Asim Munir and held detailed discussions on security cooperation. The two countries had agreed to the setting up of a joint rapid reaction force for curbing activities of terrorist groups along the 950km border. Pakistan further promised to proscribe groups carrying out attacks against Iran.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019

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