Bureau Report + Agencies
ISLAMABAD/ TEHRAN: Iran and Pakistan will form a joint working group to look after border management, including security, trade and travel issues between the two countries, the Iranian interior minister has said.
Speaking at the conclusion of a one-day visit to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Monday, Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian state-run IRNA that both sides were also seeking to increase engagement on economic relations.
“Iran-Pakistan relations, especially in the economic field, should be stronger and broader,” Vahidi said.
During the visit, Vahidi met his Pakistani counterpart Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Iranian diplomat was accompanied by Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Commander of the Iranian Border Guards, Brigadier General Ahmad Ali Goudarzi, and Iranian military attache Colonel Mostafa Ghanbarpour.
Pakistan and Iran share a border of roughly 750km (466 miles) located in Pakistan’s southwest and Iran’s southeast. The border has been the site of sporadic skirmishes, with border patrols on both sides targeted.
In 2018, at least 14 Iranian security personnel, including intelligence officials belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were abducted along the border, increasing tension between the two countries.
Armed group Jaish al-Adl, affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for those abductions.
Five of those soldiers were released the same year. Four were rescued by Pakistani security forces in 2019. In 2021, Iran said it had rescued two more of the soldiers.
According to a statement from the Pakistan prime minister’s office, issues of developing border markets and “a convergence of views” on the situation in Afghanistan were also discussed.
“(Pakistani PM Khan) stressed early completion and operationalization of the border sustenance markets, for economic uplift of the people living on both sides of the border,” the statement said.
It added that PM Khan “expressed satisfaction over convergence of views regarding a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and underscored the importance of close coordination between the two countries”.
“The prime minister also stressed the need for urgent actions by the international community to prevent humanitarian crisis and economic meltdown in Afghanistan and measures to enhance practical engagement, strengthen stability, and counter terrorism.”
Vahidi’s talks with Pakistani army chief touched upon similar subjects, according to a Pakistani military statement.
“(General Bajwa) said that enhanced cooperation between the two brotherly neighbors is vital for peace and stability in the region,” said the statement.
“Terming Pak-Iran Border as border of peace and friendship, (the Army Chief) highlighted the need to put in collective efforts to deny any space or liberty of action to be exploited by miscreants along Pak-Iran Border.”