There were many impediments in the way of restoring good relations between Iran and Pakistan. Some recent terrorist incidents along the Pak-Iran border wherein fingers were pointed at each other added to the already existing mistrust. After the recent gruesome murders of 14 officials in Ormara in Balochistan, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi minced no words saying that the militants came over from across the border and that Iran was expected to take action against those involved.
Moreover, the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit a couple of months ago was of particular concern to Iran. The impression was that Pakistan probably was about to join the ‘Saudi camp’ aimed at countering Iran’s influence in the region.
In such a climate of distrust, the prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan undertook a much- needed visit to Iran and uttered the right sound bytes. In a candid conversation with Iran’s top leadership that was caught on camera as well, the PM referring to the April 18 terror attack in Ormara said Pakistan understands Iran’s concerns about the groups that were operating out of Pakistan in the past. He assured the Iranians that nothing such will happen in future and that the two top security leaders shall work out the details in their meeting. The Inter-Services Intelligence chief is accompanying the PM on his two–day visit. The two countries also agreed to boost security cooperation and set up a Joint Rapid Reaction Force to fight terrorism and guard the common border.
The PM said that, for the first time, the current government was dismantling militant groups across the country after a consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan that the country will not allow its soil to be used by anyone against anyone.
Besides Kashmir and Palestine, the two leaders discussed that peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of both Pakistan and Iran, noting that the war had affected both countries.
President Rouhani, while addressing the press conference, in a veiled reference to Saudi Arabia, said that no third country should be allowed to harm the brotherly and close relations between the two countries.
The two neighbours also agreed to bolster trade and economic relations and set up a barter committee for the exchange of goods. Iran also expressed its interest in establishing links between the Gwadar and Chabahar ports in order to strengthen commercial relations.
There was also an agreement to expedite measures to restart the stalled work on the pipeline near the border to meet Pakistan’s energy requirements.
The region for obvious reasons of acrimony and distrust among the regional players has not been able to benefit optimally from its trade potential and Khan said that the absence of such trade relations reflects upon the standard of living of the people. Peace and economic relations are in the interest of everyone. If Tehran and Islamabad are able to catch a wavelength, it shall help not only in restoring regional peace but also yield rich trade dividends. A good visit is all it takes to set the ball rolling. Both the countries should take it from here.