A statement by the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan about the resolution of ‘misunderstanding’ between Tehran and Islamabad is really a satisfying development. Its timings are crucial as it comes amid mounting tensions between India and Pakistan and the ongoing talks for peace in Afghanistan.
Talking to a group of media-persons on Monday, the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, Mehdi Honardost, said, “The misunderstanding between the two brotherly countries is over and the conspiracy of third party is demolished.” The relations between the two countries turned sour after the February 13 suicide attack that left 27 Revolutionary Guards dead in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province that borders Pakistan’s Balochistan. The attack was the latest of the violent incidents in the volatile Iranian province where Baloch population accuses Tehran of discrimination. Tehran, however, saw Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) behind the February 13 attack and demanded of Islamabad to take action against the group which, according to Tehran, had its bases and training centres in Pakistan.
However, the back-channel diplomacy worked and the Iranian concerns were addressed as the tensions with India mounted in the wake of the Pulwama attack on February 14. Another positive development that helped pacify the Iranian government took place on March 21 when Pakistan rescued and handed over to Tehran four Iranian soldiers who had been held captive by a militant group in Balochistan since October 2018.
It must be in this background that there seemed to be a shift in the Iranian stance when its ambassador told the journalists that “the fact that I have invited you today is to convey a message that relations between the two countries are back on track,” and “soon there will be very good news” on the relations between Pakistan and Iran. What was more important was ambassador’s repeated suggestion that “third parties” should have no role in determining the nature of the Pakistan-Iran ties. It was, however, not clear who the envoy was referring to as “third party” — the US or Saudi Arabia.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2019.