Iran moves to allay border tension as Foreign Minister visits Pakistan

Hossein Amirabdollahian attempting to mend relations after retaliatory missile strikes earlier this month

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani holding talks in Islamabad. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad on Monday, aiming to reduce tension after deadly retaliatory air strikes by Tehran and Islamabad this month killed at least 11 people and worsened relations between the neighbours.

Talks focused on respecting each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, expanding security co-operation, boosting trade and stepping up efforts to mend ties.

The visit by Mr Amirabdollahian comes at a time of heightened tension after a missile strike by Tehran on Pakistan was countered by Islamabad attacking terrorist hideouts in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Iran and blocked his counterpart from returning to Islamabad.

Iran, Pakistan and other countries in the region have been going through a realignment phase since the withdrawal of the US-led forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, Jamil Ahmed, a professor at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Peshawar, told The National.

"Since the US withdrawal, the region has become volatile," Mr Ahmed said. “Pakistan must take action against the group creating trouble for Iran, while Iran must take action against the Baloch separatists hiding on the other side of the border. Otherwise, tension will increase further."

Mr Jilani, speaking at a joint press conference on Monday after the talks, said the neighbours were able to resolve misunderstandings fairly quickly.

The two countries also agreed to fight terrorism in their respective areas and allay each other's concerns, Mr Jilani said.

Mr Amirabdollahian said the two countries had a good understanding and there have never been territorial differences or wars between Iran and Pakistan.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi will soon visit Pakistan, he said.

"First there was escalation between the two countries, and now there is de-escalation as foreign ministers today are assuring co-operation," Mr Ahmed said.

"The next step could either be peace in case both countries fulfil each other's demands, or escalation may reach a point where two countries engage in war."

Meanwhile, Muhammad Mudassir Tipu, Pakistan's ambassador to Iran, emphasised the importance of Mr Amirabdollahian's visit to Islamabad, saying the Pakistani government was interested in deep intelligence-sharing and security co-operation with Tehran.

Pakistan enjoys close, long-standing relations and historical co-operation with Iran, Mr Tipu said in an interview with news agency Irna.

The countries are well aware of the sensitivity of their relations, as well as the events unfolding across the region, he said.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Pakistan would serve to highlight the violence committed by the Jaish-ul-Adl in Iran as well as the issue of Baloch separatists in Pakistan, said Sarfraz Khan, a former director of the Area Study Centre for China, Russia and Central Asia, in Peshawar.

"Pakistan and Iran have buried the hatchet at the moment with regard to the missile strikes and counterstrikes," he said. "However, the problem will linger if Pakistan fails to take action against Jaish-ul-Adl or if Iran fails to move against the Baloch separatists on its side of the border."

With agency reports

Updated: January 29, 2024, 11:58 AM