ISLAMABAD - In an apparent move to mend souring bilateral relations in the aftermath of the situation arising out of the abduction of Iranian guards from its border area, Pakistan and Iran on Tuesday agreed to establish a hotline between FC in Balochistan and Iranian border force.

“We principally agreed to form a hotline between the director generals (DGs) of military operations (Mos) of the two countries,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said while addressing a joint press conference along with his Iranian counterpart Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli after a meeting.

Earlier, Iranian delegation led by its interior minister held meeting with Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan that was attended by Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan Ali Raza Haghighian. Secretary Interior was also present on the occasion.

However, there was a ‘rare show of disagreement’ at the joint press conference on at least two issues - launching of joint anti-terrorism operations across border and abduction of Iranian guards by militants - as Iranian minister went on saying one thing on both issues and his Pakistani counterpart the other thing.

In his remarks, Iranian interior minister said issue of abduction of five Iranian guards from its province bordering Pakistan had been resolved with the cooperation of Pakistani side after the issue was brought into the notice of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Ch Nisar Ali Khan, however, rebutted the claim of his counterpart by reaffirming Pakistan’s position on the issue and saying, “Iranian border guards were never ever in Pakistan. So the question of 5th guard’s presence in Pakistan does not arise at all”.

However, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli reciprocating said Iran had already provided images and documentation to Pakistani authorities about guards’ kidnapping and the alleged terrorist group’s presence in Pakistan. They would provide fresh images in tomorrow (Wednesday)’s meeting.

The relations between Iran and Pakistan had strained after the abduction of five Iranian border guards in February this year allegedly by a terrorist group Jaish-ul Adl. Iran had alleged that the group was operating from Balochistan and the guards had been kept in Pakistani territory. Iranian interior minister had issued a warning to Pakistan by saying that its forces would launch an operation inside Pakistan if Pakistan did not act to free the guards.

On another point, Iranian interior minister said in the area of security, both sides agreed on intelligence sharing and to conduct joint operations against terrorists on the border side where necessary.

At the same time, Pakistani interior minister refuted his claim saying no joint operation would be conducted as both sides would conduct operation from their sides across the border. “If there is any issue on this side of Pakistan, our forces will carry out operation on our side of the border and similarly Iran will conduct operation on its side,” he remarked.

Ch Nisar said, “We both agreed that a special task force or commission will be formed within a couple of days that will put in place entire framework for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Iran.”

Nisar in his opening remarks said the two sides discussed issues of security, cross border terrorism, smuggling, human trafficking, intelligence sharing, greater coordination between security forces and economic relations. “I had a very long and detailed discussion with the Iranian Minister on different aspects of Pakistan-Iran relations,” he said.

The present government wants relations with Iran, which are reflective of the desires of people of the two countries and will be a model of friendship for others, he added.

The minister said, “We have common faith, history and culture and sky is the limit in our relations. Any irritants must be removed. It is important that we grab this opportunity.”

He said while during the meeting with his counterpart, it was agreed to strengthen border markets, increase exchange of commodities and create more opportunities for bilateral investment.

He said Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan would hold a trilateral meeting to increase security cooperation. He said increased regional economic cooperation would lead to sustainable security on the borders. We will also increase level of cooperation in Balochistan, he added.

Replying to a question about either Pakistan has become a place of proxy war of Saudi Arabia and Iran, Ch Nisar outright rejected the claim and said Pakistan had the best of terms with Iran and Saudi Arabia.