IN recent times, high level exchanges between Pakistan and Iran appear to be taking bilateral relations to a positive direction and indeed it is the way forward to ensure a better future for this conflict ridden region and meet common challenges including those related to security. Historically speaking, relations between two countries have remained friendly but still marked by mistrust and misunderstanding on different issues including that of border management but it is good to see that two countries are now engaged deeply to address irritants in their relations.
On Monday an Iranian high-level military delegation headed by Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri visited caretaker FM Abdullah Hussain Haroon at the Foreign Office and later held talks with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during which both the sides pledged to further deepen their military and defence relations. Gen Bajwa is rightly believed to be the architect of improvement in Pakistan-Iran ties particularly the military relations. Last year, he had made an unprecedented visit to Iran setting the stage for improved cooperation. Later, Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar visited the country in June. As the improvement in military relations was predicated on the basis of border security cooperation, discussion on border management was also on top of agenda during Gen Bagheri’s meeting with Gen Bajwa. Another key issue on the agenda of their meeting was regional security. Indeed the journey towards improvement in military ties had not been free of irritants and problems but both the countries have really worked together to overcome those challenges and prevented nascent cooperation from falling apart. Recently the Iranian spymaster was also in Islamabad to attend a rare meeting of the spy chiefs of the regional countries that involved Pakistan, Russia and China. The meeting reportedly focused on the threat posed by the growing footprint of the militant IS group in Afghanistan. The terrorist group is emerging as a major threat in the region and concerns of four countries are genuine and warrant close collaboration to neutralise it. In recent times, we have also seen increased cooperation and efforts on part of regional powers to sort out a solution which is in the best interest of Afghanistan as well as its neighbours. Further, Pakistan and Iran can benefit enormously from mutual cooperation in economic and commercial fields. We should also involve and integrate Iran in the implementation of the CPEC projects. The possibility of extending Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline to China once it becomes operational should be given serious consideration. Pakistan and Iran also need to work towards making Gwadar-Chahabar sister ports in practical terms for a secure and prosperous future of our posterity. As China is developing Gwadar, the Iranian side can also seek its assistance for the expansion of its port after India has been seen reneging on its promise.