Pakistan, Iran to set up border ‘reaction force’ after attacks - GulfToday

Pakistan, Iran to set up border ‘reaction force’ after attacks

Pakistan-Iran

Imran Khan and Hassan Rouhani during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on Monday. Agence France-Presse

Pakistan and Iran have agreed to set up a joint border “reaction force” following a number of deadly attacks by militant groups on their frontier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Monday after talks with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rouhani told a joint news conference, following months of increased tensions over attacks on both sides of the frontier.

The agreement comes after Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that a group of militants crossed the border from Iran earlier that week and carried out a deadly attack against Pakistani armed forces in southwestern Baluchistan province, killing 14.

The border skirts the volatile southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan which has been the scene of frequent attacks on Iran’s security forces.

Imran’s visit to Iran, the first since he took office last year, comes after gunmen who Islamabad says were based in Iran killed 14 members of Pakistan’s security forces last week in its own Balochistan province.

“The security chief will sit down with his counterpart here and discuss (security) cooperation,” Imran Khan said, although no details were given on the joint force.

“We trust that both countries will not have terrorist activities from their soil ... We will not allow any damage to your country from our soil,” said the Pakistani premier who started a two-day visit on Sunday.

Imran said he felt that terrorism was creating differences between the two Islamic countries. “Visiting Iran was aimed at shunning them.” He said few days back Pakistani security forces

personnel were martyred in a cowardly attack in Makran.

Commenting on the Afghanistan situation, he said peace in Afghanistan is beneficial for Pakistan and Iran both. Pakistan and Iran suffered a lot due to insurgency in Afghanistan, he

continued. He said Islamabad has suffered more than any other country in the world in war against terror, Pakistani security forces are fighting to endure peace and stability in the region. He said both the countries have agreed to enhance bilateral relations. He also thanked Irani leadership and people for according warm welcome to him.

In March, Rouhani demanded Pakistan act “decisively against anti-Iranian terrorists,” following a Feb.13 attack that killed 27 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Balochistan.

Iran has said a Pakistani suicide bomber was behind the attack, claimed by the militant group Jaish Al Adl (Army of Justice), which Tehran says operates mostly out of bases in Pakistan.

On Saturday, Islamabad said it had evidence the “terrorist outfits” that carried out the attack in Balochistan had “training and logistic camps inside Iranian areas bordering Pakistan.”

Stressing that “no third country” could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States and its policy of isolating the Islamic republic, Rouhani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

“In the current situation the region’s countries must decide and plan for their interests independently and directly,” Rouhani said.

“Iran is ready to meet Pakistan’s oil and gas demands ... (and) we are ready to increase (electricity) exports to Pakistan ten-fold,” he added.

He said cooperation between Chabahar port in southeast Iran and Pakistan’s Gwadar port can be increased, and that Tehran could facilitate the construction of a railroad connecting Istanbul to Islamabad.

Chabahar, only about 100 kilometres from the Pakistan border and located on the Indian Ocean, is Iran’s largest port outside the Gulf and the only one exempt from US sanctions.

That is due mainly to the pivotal role of the port, and a planned railway line, in breaking landlocked Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan for trade with the world, especially with Pakistan’s rival India.

For his part, Imran  said his visit to Tehran — the first by a Pakistani premier since Nawaz Sharif in 2016 — aimed to “find ways to increase trade and cooperation... in energy and other areas”, noting that two-way trade was “very limited.”

But he made no pledge on energy purchases or provide details on other economic links.

Rouhani expressed the confidence that the visit of Imran Khan will serve to be a turning point in expanding relations between the two countries. Pakistan and Iran also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the health sector.

Agencies