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Exactly one day ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s scheduled visit to Tehran, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has issued a diplomatic rebuke to his hosts in the form of a protest launched over Iran’s alleged lack of action against elements suspected of the Ormara massacre of April 18. The terrorists are seen as having safe havens in Iran.
Such public censure by the foreign minister does not appear calculated to improve the chances of a substantial improvement in relations resulting from the visit. In fact, it threatens to reduce the visit to no more than a sightseeing opportunity. Alternatively, the Foreign Office could have put the pursuit of Ormara attack suspects on the top of the agenda to be discussed at the highest level during the visit. The foreign minister appeared to be trying to settle scores with Iran for summoning the Pakistani ambassador in Tehran to protest Pakistan’s lack of action against terrorists following a suicide attack on Irani guards in February.
This is not the first time terrorism-related diplomacy appears to have widened the gap between the two countries, rather than bringing them closer to fight the common enemy. In 2016, the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav was announced during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan, indirectly accusing Iran of harbouring RAW agents. Mr Rouhani had commented that “Whenever we become close to Pakistan such rumours come up. We have brotherly relations with Pakistan.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif has already pledged to work with Pakistan in tracking the attackers of the Ormara massacre and bringing them to book. Diplomatic rows aside, the recent attacks in Iran and Pakistan call for renewed efforts to wipe out terrorism in both countries. Both need to agree to police border areas on either side that have been attacked by terrorists. The demarche handed to the Iranian officials over the April 18 attack mentions actionable intelligence shared by Pakistani officials with Iranian counterparts. Given such intelligence, both sides should set up a coordination mechanism to fight the scourge of terrorism. Joint patrols and coordinated operations can make borders safer for both countries. Mr Qureshi hinted at fencing the Pakistan-Iran border. This may be a partial solution at best.
Prime Minister Khan should turn his Iran visit into a historic opportunity to discuss border security to thwart future attacks. Incidents like the Ormara attack and the suicide attack on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps are unacceptable. Insecurity along Pakistan-Iran border can only benefit hostile nations.
The two countries should also explore opportunities for economic cooperation. The Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project, pending for a long time, should also be revived.



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