Gen Qamar to visit Iran in balancing act

Islamabad seeks equilibrium in its ties with Tehran, Riyadh

Our Correspondent October 31, 2017
Matters related to Pak-Iran border management also came under discussion. PHOTO: ISPR

ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is expected to visit Tehran in coming days as part of Pakistan’s efforts to ensure a delicate balance in its ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Ahead of the crucial visit, Iran’s Ambassador Medhi Honardoost visited the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday to meet the army chief.

“Focus of the discussion remained on regional security, Pak-Iran border management, visits and exchanges in defence realm,” said a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

“The visiting dignitary acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s contributions for peace and stability in the region and pledged to keep working for better relations between two brotherly countries,” the military’s media wing added.

The army chief’s visit to Iran comes just weeks after Gen Qamar paid a quiet visit to Saudi Arabia.

The issue that is expected to figure prominently in the discussion during the army chief’s visit to Tehran will be Pakistan’s possible role in the Saudi-led coalition.

Iran was not happy when Pakistan announced its decision to join the Saudi initiative. While Pakistan insists its participation is only meant for counter-terrorism efforts, Iran fears the coalition’s main aim is to further a sectarian agenda.

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At a recent conference of foreign ministers and military commanders of the coalition countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia targeted Iran for creating obstacles in the way of establishing peace in Yemen.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and the Chief of General Staff Lt General Bilal Akbar also attended the daylong conference last Sunday. Interestingly, no official statement was issued either by the Foreign Office or the ISPR about the visit.

The upcoming visit of the army chief to Tehran is also seen as important in the context of the current regional security situation. Since Trump administration unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan is reaching out to its neighbours, including Iran.

Islamabad is apparently pushing for a regional solution to the 16-year-long conflict in Afghanistan. Iran along with China, Russia and Turkey issued statements in favour of Pakistan after Trump accused Islamabad of playing a double game in the fight against terrorism.

Tehran shares Islamabad's perspective on Afghanistan and believes a dialogue process is the key for establishing elusive peace in the war-torn country.



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