Iran and Pakistan have agreed to boost defense ties, enhance cooperation on border security and regional issues, and jointly manufacture military hardware, Iranian and Pakistan media reported. The agreements came during a high-level visit to Pakistan this week by an Iranian military delegation led by Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Mohammad Hossein Bagheri. According to Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Bagheri held meetings with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat , President Mamnoon Hussain and caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon. Bagheri revealed that the two countries were already working on the production of defense equipment and will present them as “joint achievement of Muslim nations”. The two sides also agreed to cooperate on military educational programs, pilot training, military drills and more.
Moreover, military officials from the two countries discussed ways to curb cross-border terrorism and coordinate their efforts on Afghanistan.
Comment: Bagheri’s trip to Pakistan comes at a time when Pakistan-based militant groups have increasingly been infiltrating into Iran’s southwestern province of Sistan and Baluchestan Province. Earlier this month, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said that its troops disbanded a “terrorist cell” and clashed with an armed group that attempted to infiltrate into Iran from Tahlab in Mijaveh area near the border with Pakistan. At least three IRGC personnel were killed in the skirmishes. Jaish ul-Adl, a splinter group of Jundallah operating from Pakistan’s Baluchistan region, claimed credit for the attack. Security forces have also confiscated several consignments of explosives and weapons smuggled into the region in recent months.
The spike in cross-border attacks have stirred tension between Islamabad and Tehran. The killing of nine Iranian border guards last year, in particular, sparked tension between Tehran and Islamabad. “We expect the Pakistani authorities to accept responsibility, control the borders, extradite the terrorists [to Iran], and shut down their bases on their soil,” Bagheri said. “If these attacks continue, we will hit terrorists’ sanctuaries and safe havens wherever they are.” His warning prompted Pakistan’s Foreign Office to summon Iran’s ambassador to Islamabad, Mehdi Honardoost.
A high-ranking Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif soon traveled to Pakistan to discuss the issue. Pakistani leaders reportedly assured the Iranian delegation that it would deploy additional troops to monitor the shared border. In November, Bajwa paid an unprecedented visit to Iran, signaling that Pakistan was ready to bolster its defense ties and security cooperation with Iran.
Since then, tension has subsided, but Iranian leaders and media outlets continue to express doubt about Pakistan’s resolve. “Despite this, it appears that the Pakistani government does not show a commitment to seriously monitor and increase its forces along the Iran-Pakistan border to prevent the movement of terrorists,” wrote the Islamic Student News Agency.
Another key agenda item during this week’s meetings between the Iranian and Pakistani military officials was the war in Afghanistan. Tehran and Islamabad have taken steps to coordinate their policies on Afghanistan. Iran’s Minister of Intelligence recently traveled to Islamabad to attend a rare meeting of his counterparts from Pakistan, China and Russia. They pledged to work together to prevent the spread of ISIS in Afghanistan and the broader region.