Pakistan, Iran agree to set up Joint force to fight terrorism
Pakistan and Iran on Monday agreed to boost security cooperation and set up a Joint Rapid Reaction Force to fight terrorism and guard the common border between the two countries.
The agreement came at a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Presidential Palace in Tehran.
During their meeting, Prime Minister Imran discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and ways to further ties in diverse fields with President Rouhani.
Prime Minister Imran later held a joint press conference with President Rouhani, during which he said that he fears terrorism could become “a divisive part of the two countries’ bilateral relations and increase differences between the countries”.
He said that the most important agenda item for his visit to Tehran was “the issue of terrorism”.
He said that the security agencies of Pakistan must be appreciated for the way they tackled and overcame terrorism in Pakistan.
“We are much luckier than Afghanistan, where despite all Nato strength and despite the Afghan security forces, they could not overcome militancy the way we did in Pakistan,” the premier said.
PM said that, for the first time, the current government was dismantling militant groups across the country. He said that this was not due to any outside pressure, but the result of a decision made through consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan that the country will not allow its soil to be used by anyone against anyone.
The chief executive also brought his counterpart’s attention to the April 18 terror attack in Ormara, in which 14 armed forces personnel were martyred. He said he understands that Iran had also suffered from terrorist attacks by groups operating within Pakistan, but stressed that the issues need to be resolved before they push the two countries apart.
He suggested that the Pakistani “security chief” will sit with his Iranian counterpart and discuss ways of cooperation so that the countries, “reach a level of trust such that both countries will not allow any terrorist activity from their soil”.
“We hope that this will build confidence between us; it will help build a future relationship where we have complete confidence in each other,” the prime minister said.
The premier further said that peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of both Pakistan and Iran, noting that the war had affected both countries. He said that Pakistan and Iran would cooperate with each other in helping reach a peace settlement in Afghanistan.
The premier also brought attention to the injustice being done to the people of Palestine and the people of Kashmir. PM Imran said that that a United Nations resolution “clearly states that the people of Kashmir will be allowed to decide their own destiny”. Yet, he regretted, Indian security forces have been trying to oppress the people of Kashmir for the past 30 years.
He added that the whole subcontinent can move forward once Kashmir was settled. “Justice will bring peace,” the premier reiterated.
He said that Pakistan was interested in the way that Iran had improved primary healthcare since the revolution. He said the newly appointed health minister was made part of the visiting delegation so that Pakistan can learn how to benefit from the Iranian experience in primary healthcare.
President Rouhani, while addressing the press conference, said “Unfortunately we witnessed some tensions in border areas in the recent past, where terrorists perpetrated their nefarious acts.”
He noted that, during the talks, both countries had reaffirmed their commitment to peace and security in the region. “We also emphasised that no third country should be allowed to harm the brotherly and close relations between the two countries,” the president added.
Rouhani said that the two countries have agreed to bolster their trade and economic relations and have agreed to set up a barter committee for the exchange of goods.
He said that Iran was also interested in establishing links between the Gwadar and Chabahar ports in order to strengthen commercial relations.
Rouhani said that Iran was ready to meet Pakistan’s oil and gas requirements and added that Iran has already taken measures to construct a pipeline near the Pakistani border. He said that Iran was also ready to increase the export of electricity to Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran also met with the representatives of Iran’s business community, where he stressed on the need for increased bilateral trade.
“The countries that are doing well, like the Southeast Asian tiger economies, all of them have a very high proportion of bilateral trade with the countries they are close to,” the premier said. “The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries have a very high level of trade, China has the same with all its neighbours.
“But unfortunately, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan have a very low proportion of trade with their neighbouring countries. And this reflects in our standards of living not reaching the levels where they should be.
The prime minister had arrived at the Presidential Palace early in the day, where he was received by the Iranian president. The national anthems of both countries were played during a welcoming ceremony, after which Prime Minister Imran was presented a guard of honour.
The premier is visiting Iran in a bid to strengthen trust between the two neighbouring countries. He was invited by President Rouhani.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a meeting with Supreme Leader of Iran Syed Ali Khamenei in Tehran. They discussed matters of mutual interest.