Iran surprises Pakistan; fires mortar shells on Balochistan
As India carried out a surgical strike on Pakistan, its "brotherly" neighbor Iran surprised it by attacking the Iran-Pak border. The Iran Border Forces reportedly opened fire on Pakistan's western border triggering panic among the locals. A Balochistan official stated three mortar shells were fired that landed in Panjgoor; no human or property loss was reported. Pakistan deployed more border forces following the incident.
After Pakistan had got independence in August 1947, Iran was the first nation to recognize its neighbor's sovereign status internationally. Iran had always supported Pakistan in its conflicts with India; while Pakistan supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iran and Pakistan are co-founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO); the economic and military collaboration between the two nations strengthened their ties.
Issues between Iran and Pakistan arose in the 1990s over political position and trade. Pakistan's foreign policy maintained normal relations with Saudi Arabia, the US, and the European Union, while Iran opposed. Iran warned against Pakistan's foreign policy and raised concerns about Pakistan's support for the Taliban during the Afghani Civil War in the late 1990s. However, trade and economic relations continued to expand.
Iran and Pakistan signed a Free Trade Agreement in 1999. Both nations cooperate and form alliances in several areas of mutual interests like fighting drug trade, combating Afghan-backed insurgency along their border. Pakistan is also known to be the most pro-Iran nation in the world.
India supporting Balochistan in its struggle prompted Pakistan to rethink over its troubled province that is partly controlled by Iran. Pakistan is concerned about its ties with Iran over Balochistan. The relations between Iran and the Baloch people living there are bitter, and several episodes of insurgencies have been witnessed. Pakistan's help to Iran in these matters is considered a rare cooperation feat.
Iran-Pak ties over the Balochistan issue have several complexities; both the nations want to stabilize the Baloch issue. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) reportedly offers an incentive for Pakistan and Iran to stabilize Balochistan. Possibly pushed by China, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his desire to translate CPEC into reality and join the same in a recent meeting with Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif.
Recently, Bahram Qassemi said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes more than ever that cracking down on extremism and terrorism will be only possible through collective consensus and cooperation." He added without addressing the roots of extremism the world can not overcome the problem.
A Pakistani Foreign Office official stated: "Pakistan and Iran are brotherly countries. It was just a coincidence that this happened on the same day that India violated the ceasefire across the Line of Control. Otherwise, there is no comparison between the two incidents."