Pakistan, Iran on course to restore diplomatic ties

NSC terms military standoff ‘minor irritant’ as FMs of two countries discuss return of ambassadors

News Desk January 19, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar chairing the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting in Islamabad on Friday, January 19, 2024. PHOTO: PID


Pakistan and Iran on Friday reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions after tit-for-tat missile strikes raised concerns of a full-scale conflict between the neighbours, with the country’s top decision-making body saying both sides would mutually overcome what it termed “minor irritants”.

While the official readout from the National Security Committee (NSC) did not explicitly mention the restoration of diplomatic ties, a separate statement released by the Foreign Office following a telephonic conversation between caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani and his Iranian counterpart affirmed that both parties agreed to de-escalate the situation.

Importantly, both the foreign ministers discussed the return of ambassadors to their respective capitals in the two countries. The sources said Pakistan and Iran have, in principle, agreed to fully restore diplomatic ties, with a formal announcement expected “very soon”. Similarly, the sources said both the foreign ministers would undertake reciprocal visits to each other’s capital to repair ties.

Even before the top decision-making body met in Islamabad, sings of de-escalation were already visible with both sides making conciliatory statements.

Based on the positive developments that took place prior to the NSC huddle, the meeting concluded that in line with the universal principles governing the conduct of good neighbourly relations, the two countries would mutually be able to overcome minor irritants through dialogue and diplomacy and pave the way to further deepen their historic relations.

Also read: Jilani speaks to Iranian counterpart to defuse tensions

The forum undertook a wholesome review of the situation and lauded the professional, calibrated and proportionate response by the armed forces of Pakistan against unprovoked and unlawful violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

During the meeting, participants were briefed about political and diplomatic developments bearing upon the prevailing situation between Pakistan and Iran and its impact on the overall security milieu in the region.

Forum also took stock of the ‘Operation Marg Bar Sarmachar’, which was successfully executed against Pakistani originated Baloch terrorists residing on the ungoverned spaces inside Iran.

An update on the situation along the borders and necessary full preparations done to comprehensively respond to any further violation of national sovereignty was also deliberated about.

The forum reiterated the unflinching resolve that sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan are absolutely inviolable and sacrosanct and any attempt by anyone to breach it on any pretext will be responded with full might of the state.

The meeting reaffirmed that the security and safety of the people of Pakistan is of paramount importance and no stone will be left unturned to ensure it.

Also read: De-escalation imminent as friends engage in hectic diplomacy

The forum expressed that Iran, being a neighbourly and brotherly Muslim country, existing multiple communication channels between the two countries should be mutually utilised to address each other’s security concerns in the larger interest of regional peace and stability.

The meeting impressed upon Pakistan’s commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries in accordance with the UN charter and international norms. The committee also reiterated the resolve to deal with the menace of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, with an iron hand.

The forum also highlighted that Pakistan has suffered far more than any other country due to this scourge of terrorism.

The meeting was attended by the caretaker ministers for defence, foreign affairs, finance and information, chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee, chief of the army staff, chief of naval staff and chief of air staff as well as heads of intelligence agencies.

Only 24-hours ago the two countries were on the brink of major conflict when Pakistan retaliated to Iranian missile strikes. But hectic diplomatic efforts aided by common friends helped ease tensions. Official sources said Pakistan had no intention to escalate the tensions and after retaliatory strikes Iran too realized that the situation could only get worse if it responded further.

The first sign of easing of tension was the telephonic conversation between the Foreign Minister of Pakistan and Iran just ahead of the crucial meeting of the NSC meeting, which eventually agreed to restore diplomatic ties.
An official handout said Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani spoke with the foreign minister of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Underscoring the close brotherly relations between Pakistan and Iran, the foreign minister expressed Pakistan’s desire to work with Iran based on spirit of mutual trust and cooperation.

Also read: Pakistan-Iran ties at a crossroads after deadly strikes

The foreign minister stressed that respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty must underpin this cooperation.
The two foreign ministers agreed that working level cooperation and close coordination on counter terrorism and other aspects of mutual concern should be strengthened. They also agreed to de-escalate the situation.
Observers believe Pakistan’s retaliatory strikes left Iran with no other options to mend ties with Islamabad. Questions were being asked as to why Iran opted to open a front with Pakistan at a time when it was grappling with the Middle East crisis.

The unprecedented military standoff between the two countries was triggered by Iran’s unexpected missile strikes in Panjgur district of Balochistan province on Jan 16. Iran claimed it struck the terrorist hideouts of Jaish Al-Adl, a militant outfit operating from Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province.

Pakistan contested the claims and said strikes killed two innocent children and injured three girls.

Pakistan in reaction to its air space violation recalled its envoy from Tehran and asked the Iranian Ambassador to stay back in his country. It also announced virtually severing high level contacts with Iran.

A day later Pakistan retaliated with missile strikes hitting 7 targets across the border. Pakistan said strikes killed terrorists of Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). Iran admitted those killed were not Iranian nationals.

Tehran summoned the Pakistani diplomat to record a protest but its response was muted. Iran soon started a conciliatory message with its foreign ministry making it clear that Tehran was adhering to its policy of friendly ties with Pakistan and that it would not allow anyone to strain ties with the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday briefed the federal cabinet about the situation arising from the Iranian attack on Pakistan on January 16.

The details of the attack, as well as Pakistan’s response, were shared in the meeting of the cabinet held under caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

The cabinet lauded the high professionalism with which the armed forces responded to the breach of the country’s sovereignty with the entire government machinery working in unison.

Addressing the cabinet, the PM affirmed that Pakistan was a law-abiding and peace-loving country, seeking friendly and cooperative relations with all countries, particularly its neighbours.

He said both were brotherly countries that have historically enjoyed fraternal and cooperative relations of respect and affection. He added it was in both nations' best interest to take measures to return the relationship to its state before January 16.

With additional input from APP



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