TEHRAN: In this photo released officially, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi before their meeting on Wednesday.—AP
TEHRAN: In this photo released officially, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi before their meeting on Wednesday.—AP

ISLAMABAD: Iranian President Dr Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said border security was a common concern for Pakistan and Iran, which could be tackled through greater cooperation between the two neighbours.

Talking to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is currently visiting Iran, Dr Rouhani said: “Security is a common concern of the two countries, and the development of relations in this regard is imperative.”

A statement issued by the Iranian presidency on the meeting said the president underscored the need for security at the borders of the two neighbouring countries.

Border security has long remained a major cause of distrust in Pak-Iran ties. The two countries share a 909km-long border, which is infested with criminal gangs, militants and drug traffickers. There have been violent incidents in the past on both sides of the border, as well as attacks on security forces of the two countries.

FM says opening of Mand-Pishin border crossing point will enhance bilateral trade; MoU on border trade centres signed

Steps taken by the two countries, including institution of several border mechanisms to improve security, have helped improve the situation. However, occasional incidents keep straining the relations.

Pakistan is erecting fence to check unauthorised cross-border movement at a cost of Rs3 billion. The fencing project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Speaking about the regional situation, Dr Rouhani said peace and stability could be ensured through regional mechanisms. He said Tehran was open to working with Islamabad and Kabul for peace in Afghanistan. “Iran and Pakistan, as two most important and effective neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, should increase cooperation and interaction for the development of the peace process in the country,” he added.

Referring to the decision taken by the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Dr Rouhani said the US military presence in the region had not helped maintain security and stability.

The Iranian leader reiterated the need for developing and deepening bilateral relations in various fields, including economic relations and trade, as well as development and strengthening of border markets. He, however, in a reference to unimplemented agreements signed by the two countries in the past, including the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline agreement, called for implementing and operationalising those accords.

Dr Rouhani repeated Iran’s readiness to meet Pakistan’s energy needs.

The Foreign Office in a statement on the meeting said Mr Qureshi had discussed “the ways and means” to strengthen ties and underlined Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to strengthen ties with Iran, especially expanding mutually beneficial economic cooperation and development.

Mr Qureshi thanked President Rouhani for support to Mr Khan’s initiative to establish border markets. The opening of international border crossing point at Mand-Pishin would facilitate pedestrian movement and enhance bilateral trade, he maintained.

The Mand-Pishin border was opened at a ceremony attended by Minister for Defence Production Zobaida Jalal and Iranian Minister for Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also called on Speaker of Iranian Parliament Bagher Ghalibaf. The foreign minister emphasised the need for frequent parliamentary exchanges to develop common understanding on various issues. He also underlined the need for enhancing coordination at international parliamentary forums.

Mr Qureshi apprised the speaker of the grave human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and appreciated the support of the Iranian leadership for the Kashmiri people.

MoU on border trade centres

Foreign Minister Qureshi and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the opening of “Border Trade Centres” between the two countries.

During the delegation level talks, the two sides discussed trade, investment, strengthening ties, security and cultural cooperation. They also discussed the establishment of common market places on the border, opening of new border corridors and enhancing people-to-people contacts.

Meanwhile, addressing the officials of Pakistan Embassy in Tehran, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan had vociferously expressed serious concern over the increasing trend of Islamophobia in the West which was being fanned by certain extremist elements.

He said Pakistan did not oppose the right to freedom of speech and expression, but this did not give anyone the right to hurt others’ feelings. He said certain incidents in the past regarding publication of blasphemous sketches and statements hurt the sentiments of the entire Muslim ummah, including Pakistani nation.

Mr Qureshi said he would soon visit Turkey and discuss the issue with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Turkish counterpart. The Turkish leadership shared the same thoughts.

He said everyone was aware of the importance of Saudi Arabia for Muslim ummah. During an upcoming visit of the prime minister, he said, the leadership of the both countries would discuss this issue.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021

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