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Wider cooperation in West Asia key to regional peace, Bajwa tells Zarif

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in a meeting with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday underscored the need for cooperation in ‘West Asia’ to tackle security challenges threatening the region.

“Regional peace is dependent upon wider cooperation within West Asia. We all need to cooperate to root out transnational security/crimes threat,” Gen Bajwa, according to army’s media wing, told the visiting foreign minister who called on him at the General Headquarters on the last day of his three-day visit.

Pakistan and Iran are on the opposite sides in Middle Eastern politics. Pakistan has in the past tried to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Iran, but could not convince Riyadh to accept its good offices.

Gen Bajwa, who visited Tehran late last year, is often credited for the recent improvements in Pakistan-Iran ties.

During his three-day visit, Mr Zarif has been pushing Pakistan to play its role in defusing the tensions in the region and contribute to materialisation of a new paradigm of “understanding and inclusion” that he calls “a neighbourhood paradigm”.

He warned of experiments of “exclusion” and “winning through power” while pointing towards the happenings in Yemen and Syria.

The Iranian foreign minister said: “Pakistan and Iran are prudent enough and have enough solid foundation to be able to lead this change towards stronger neighbourhood based on concept of inclusion … of all in the neighbourhood.”

Last week Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had clarified the army’s announcement of deployment of more troops in Saudi Arabia during a National Assembly session. He said the troops were being sent for the kingdom’s “internal security” and not for the Yemen war.

Mr Zarif, meanwhile, in his meeting with the army chief appreciated the steps that had been taken by Pakistan and Iran for bolstering border security. “The visiting dignitary appreciated bilateral security engagements during the recent months and measures initiated by both sides to improve Pak-Iran border security,” said the army’s media wing, ISPR.

Border security has remained a major issue between Pakistan and Iran. Mr Zarif last time visited Islamabad in May 2017 in the aftermath of a cross-border attack by militants that killed a number of Iranian border guards to seek assurances that Pakistan would take action to prevent recurrence of such attacks. Border security was again discussed during Gen Bajwa’s visit to Tehran where he assured the Iranian government that Pak-Iran border would remain border of peace and friendship. He had also highlighted the need for its better security management so as to deny its exploitation by terrorists.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2018

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