ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Tuesday agreed on joint operations against terrorists, smugglers and drug-traffickers in the border regions between the two countries.
Addressing a joint press conference with Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli at the Punjab House after official talks, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said the two sides discussed security, cross-border terrorism, smuggling, human trafficking, greater intelligence sharing, cooperation between security forces and economic relations. The two sides also agreed on establishment of hotlines between the Frontier Corps and Iranian officials to resolve border and security related issues.
“The director generals of military operations of the two countries will keep contacts. If any issue related to security emerges, both countries would carry out operations on their respective side of the border,” Nisar told a jammed press conference. “If the issue is related to this side of the border, our security forces will conduct the operations and if there is an issue on the other side of the border, the Iranian forces will carry out the operation,” he said.
Relations between Tehran and Islamabad had become slightly edgy following the abduction of five Iranian border guards by a militant group last February. Iran had claimed that the guards were kidnapped to Pakistan – a charge which Islamabad repeatedly denied. Nisar said his government wants ties with Iran to be reflective of the true aspirations and desires of the people of the two countries. “We have common faith, history and culture, and sky is the limit in our relations. Any irritant in ties must be removed. It is important that we grab this opportunity,” he said while stressing importance of healthy ties between the two neighbouring countries.
He said that strong relations between Pakistan and Iran will guarantee peace and stability in the region. “Prime Minister Nawaz wants relations between the two countries to serve as cornerstone of stability in the region and further economic cooperation between the two countries,” Nisar said. Nawaz Sharif is expected to pay a two-day official visit to Iran from May 11-12. “We both agreed to form a task force or commission which will put in place entire framework for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Iran,” Nisar said.
In his remarks, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said that both sides agreed to strengthen border markets and boost the exchange of goods and commodities. “We agreed on expanding cooperative relations and improving intelligence sharing,” he said while adding: “For sustainable development, we agreed that Pakistan will boost its investment in Iran and Iranian investors will reciprocate in same manner.” Earlier, the Iranian minister held a meeting with PM Nawaz Sharif along with his delegation.
“We hope that the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Iran will further boost the ties between the two brotherly countries. It will provide a good opportunity to discuss issues that would ensure security for Pakistan, Iran and the regional countries,” Fazli said. Pakistan Tuesday strongly denied that kidnapped Iranian border guards were ever on its soil, amid fresh efforts to improve fractured ties before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Tehran.
Four of the soldiers were eventually freed and returned home in April. Officials say the fate of the fifth soldier is unknown but he is assumed to have been killed. Nisar Ali Khan denied the abducted men had ever crossed the border. “Let me reiterate very categorically that those five Iranian guards were never ever present in Pakistan,” he said.
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