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Securing our countries

Opinion

April 26, 2019

It was indeed very pleasant to interact with Iranian Ambassador H E Mehdi Honardoost in Islamabad. The people of Pakistan and Iran are connected by inseparable bonds of cultural, historical and geographical affinities.

After our independence, Iran was the first country to recognize Pakistan as an independent and sovereign state. Our national anthem is also a masterpiece written in the Persian language.

Before expressing my views on the ups and downs in the diplomatic ties of neighbouring countries, I would like to strongly condemn the recent terror attack on a passenger bus at the Makran Coastal Highway. The martyred also included personnel from the Pakistan Navy. The unfortunate incident seems to be a part of an organized series of conspiracies against our beloved country.

The Foreign Office claimed that the attack had been carried out by an alliance of terrorist organizations based in Iran. In the past, Iran has also blamed Pakistan-based elements of terror attacks there. However, it is on record that the Pakistani government always condemns such terror attacks.

In such circumstances, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to visit Iran on the invitation of the Iranian president is a major breakthrough to strengthen bilateral relations. The enthusiastic welcome received by our prime minister in Tehran also proved that, despite misunderstandings, the leadership of both countries is willing to cooperate with each other. According to Iranian media, Prime Minister Imran Khan also discussed various topics of mutual interest in his meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

Both countries must demonstrate serious commitment to curb terrorism at any cost. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement is also of huge importance; he said that both Pakistan and Iran are victims of terrorism, and spoke of the use of Pakistani soil by foreign elements to carry out activities in Iran. Similar attacks are also carried out in Pakistan using Iran and Afghanistan territories in the same manner. Both sides also announced to establish a joint rapid reaction force in this regard.

The leadership of both countries, during the joint press conference, also conveyed a common message to the international community that justice should be ensured to oppressed nations for achieving global peace and harmony. Conflicts including Kashmir and Palestine can only be resolved through dialogue rather than force. The two sides also desired to enhance economic relations on a long-term basis.

In my view, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Iran has recalled the glorious past of bilateral relations when Iran and Pakistan were close allies on the global front. After Partition, Iran supported Pakistan from day one. It is believed that Quaid-e-Azam himself laid the foundation of cordial relations with Iran, and Ghazanfar Ali Khan was appointed as the first ambassador of Pakistan to Iran. In 1948, the first independence anniversary of Pakistan was officially celebrated in Tehran with full enthusiasm. On this occasion, Iranian newspapers published special editions with photos of Quaid-e-Azam. Iran also supported Pakistan during the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. Iran did not recognize Bangladesh as a country until Pakistan recognized it.

Unfortunately, the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and General Ziaul Haq’s regime increased the distances between the two countries and even today some unwanted elements are playing with the lives of innocent people to fulfil their vested interests.

The top leadership of both countries should realize that the current century is the era of joint ventures and bilateral cooperation. Once-rival countries are now joining hands for the sake of peace and prosperity. European countries, under the banner of the EU, are forgetting their bitter past and moving forward together. Similarly, both Korean countries are now coming closer. After decades of war, the Taliban are being invited for dialogue in Afghanistan.

I am sure that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Iran can positively impact the region only if both countries decide to get rid of past misunderstandings and hostility. To promote bilateral relations, Pakistan and Iran should not feel threatened by the Gwadar Port or Chahbahar or any other development project. In fact, they should take initiatives to get benefits in the interest of the entire region.

I believe that non-state actors are the real threat for all countries of the region. But it is not wise to blame each other because of such unwanted elements. To curb terrorism, Pakistan and Iran must cooperate with each other for establishing an efficient and effective border management system. This is the only way to secure our countries from all kinds of terrorism.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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