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Pakistan and Iran, after series of meetings, on Monday and Tuesday, between Iran’s civil and military leaders with Pakistan’s visiting COAS, Gen. Qamar Javaid Bajwa, gave signs of a growing consensus on several issues including peace in Afghanistan, threat of ISIS, border management, and Kashmir dispute.

Amy Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa who is on a three-day visit to Iran to improve operational coordination and consensus on shared regional concerns expressed hope that the relations between the two countries will further improve and that their differences will be resolved amicably through dialogue. He held series of meetings with virtually everyone in Iran’s executive structure. He met with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Defense minister Brigadier General, Amir Hatami, Head of Iran’s military, Maj-Gen Muhammad Bagheri, and visited headquarters of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Read more: After India & Afghanistan, Iran commits act of aggression against Pakistan

Gen Qamar met President Rouhani at the Presidential palace, Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chief of General Staff (CGS) Maj-Gen Muhammad Bagheri at General Staff Headquarters where he was presented with a guard of honour. The COAS laid a floral wreath at Martyrs Monument.

Saudi Arabia has berated and blamed Iran for the missile attack by Houthi rebels in the Saudi capital, Riyadh on Saturday, terming it as an “act of war”.

“Pakistan and Iran are two brotherly neighbours with a shared history, culture and religion,” Gen Qamar said, adding that “both armies also have a history of defence collaboration and cooperation which has great mutually benefiting potential for its enhancement.”

DG ISPR thanks Iran for its support on Kashmir

In a joint press conference on Tuesday, DG ISPR, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor thanked Iran’s spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei for his supportive statements on Kashmir. Both sides reaffirmed their resolve for peace in Afghanistan, their concerns on the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan and announced measures for better border management and coordination.

Both sides affirmed, in the joint press conference, that their territory will not be used against each other by a third party. This was a veiled reference towards the Pakistani concerns towards operations of Indian agency RAW, and Iranian concerns on the activities of Baluch dissident groups. Senior Indian officer, Kulbhashan Yadav, nabbed by Pakistanis in 2016 was operating from the port of Chabahar, in Iran. Pakistani side alerted Iranian counterparts, that given their actions against terror outfits and strong management of border with Afghanistan, elements supported by other powers may try to create disturbances on Pak-Iran border. Iran agrees to fence its border; both sides agreed for hotline contacts between their field commanders, better coordination and intelligence sharing. 

Importance of Gen. Bajwa’s Meetings

This meeting comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are exacerbating. Recently Saudi Arabia has berated and blamed Iran for the missile attack by Houthi rebels in the Saudi capital, Riyadh on Saturday, terming it as an “act of war”. Moreover, the resignation of Saad Hariri from the premiership of Lebanon (citing Iranian intervention in internal affairs of his country as a reason) has increased tensions between the two Middle Eastern countries. 

Political analysts in Pakistan are of the view that this visit by Army Chief Gen. Bajwa will serve the purpose of improved understanding between Iran and Pakistan. Many analysts in the recent past had pointed out that Pakistan is facing isolation in the region – surrounded by hostile India and Afghanistan and a less than friendly Iran. This visit thus – with range of high level meetings, supportive statements of spiritual leadership on Kashmir and operational decisions regarding border management – serves to improve understanding between two neighbors, who increasingly share a growing regional consensus on situation in Afghanistan -along with China and Russia.

Gen. Bajwa’s visit to HQ of IRGC

Gen. Bajwa’s visit to the Headquarters of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and meetings with their top officers is of huge symbolic value at this moment – and has been given prominence by Iran’s media. IRGC is facing sanctions by Trump administration, which is trying to pull out, unilaterally, out of the multilateral Iran Nuclear Deal. Pakistan is also close to Saudi Arabia, and Iran-Saudi tensions are again on rise, in the wake of resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Harriri who has blamed Iran. Tehran has however hit hard on Saudi Arabia, it believes that Saudis have engineered Harriri’s resignation to create instability in Lebanon so that Hezbollah fighters can rush back to Lebanon leaving Syria. Maintaining its leverage with both its neighbor Iran and historical friend, Saudi Arabia is Pakistan’s persistent challenge. 

“Pakistan and Iran are two brotherly neighbours with a shared history, culture and religion,” Gen Qamar said.

Many in Pakistan therefore suspect that Gen. Bajwa’s visit  may also play a mediation role between Iran and Saudi Arabia. They labeled it a continuation of reconciliatory efforts which were first commenced by former COAS Raheel Sharif and ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif soon after the launch of Saudi Yemen campaign which pitched the two arch-rivals against each other. However, sources within the government have not confirmed any of these speculations.

Read more: Pakistan and Iran keen to promote trading ties despite tensions

Experts on Pakistan foreign policy expressed that the Army Chief’s visit was Pak-Iran centric with an aim to enhance cooperation on border management and to ensure effective policing on the border to reduce the threat by miscreants who are threatening CPEC in addition to posing a credible threat to peace in Iranian Baluchistan-Sistan province. They have also labeled this meeting as important and displayed hope that the ties and anti-terror coordination between the two wary neighbours will improve. 

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