TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced Monday that he and visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to set up a joint border “reaction force” to counter terrorism. 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 two countries’ frontier.
The border skirts the volatile southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan which has been the scene of frequent attacks on Iran’s security forces. Khan’s visit to Iran, the first since he took office last year, comes after gunmen who Islamabad says were based in Iran killed 14 passengers last week in its own Balochistan province.
The security chief will sit down with his counterpart here and discuss (security) cooperation,” 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.
In March, Rouhani demanded Pakistan act “decisively against anti-Iranian terrorists”, following a February 13 attack that killed 27 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Baluchistan.
Iran has said a Pakistani suicide bomber was behind the attack, which was claimed by the Jaish al-Adl group. On Saturday Islamabad said it had evidence the “terrorist outfits” that carried out the attack in Balochistan have “training and logistic camps inside Iranian areas bordering Pakistan”.
‘NO THIRD COUNTRY’
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. “Iran is ready to meet Pakistan’s oil and gas demands … (and) we are ready to increase (electricity) exports to Pakistan ten-fold,” Rouhani said.
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.
For his part, Khan 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”. Pakistan is a close ally of the United States and Saudi Arabia, both of which have ratcheted up pressure on Iran over its alleged meddling in regional affairs.