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Roving Periscope: Weeks after clashes, Iran’s President visits frenemy Pakistan

Roving Periscope: Weeks after clashes, Iran’s President visits frenemy Pakistan

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing Iran-Israel ‘friendly fight’ and weeks after tit-for-tat airstrikes they carried out against alleged terrorist hideouts on rival lands in January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday arrived in Pakistan on a three-day official visit to promote cooperation between uneasy neighbors suspicious of each other.

President Raisi, the first Head of State to visit Pakistan after the February 8 general elections in the nearly bankrupt country, was accorded a warm welcome at the Islamabad Airport.

Neither President Asif Ali Zardari nor Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, nor even Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar was, however, present at the airport to receive him. Speculation is rife that Pakistan did not want to annoy its chief benefactor and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, which has recently agreed to throw yet another lifeline to the fellow Sunni Islamabad.

The idea behind the Iranian President’s visit to Pakistan seems to be to keep peace in the neighborhood when Tehran is fighting against Israel and is also apprehensive of a potential civil war against the Ayatollah-run brutal regime for the first time since the Islamic Revolution (1979). Iran also has tense relations with other Arab countries and Turkey, besides the US-led West.

The visiting President of Shia-majority Iran was received by Housing Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Iran Mudassir Tipu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, the media reported.

The Iranian president is accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation comprising the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet and senior officials.

President Raisi has an extensive program in Pakistan and is scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, PM Shehbaz Sharif, Senate Chairman Yusuf Raza Gilani, and Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq.

He will also visit Lahore and Karachi and meet with the provincial leadership, the reports said.

According to Radio Pakistan, Raisi will meet PM Shehbaz Sharif on Monday and there will also be a round of delegation-level talks between the two countries.

Upon arrival at the Prime Minister’s House, a guard of honor will be presented to the visiting dignitary, the report said.

President Raisi and PM Shehbaz will plant a sapling each in the Prime Minister’s House on the occasion of Earth Day, it said, adding that they would also attend the signing ceremony of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the two countries for cooperation in various fields.

The two leaders will participate in a ceremony regarding naming a highway in Islamabad as Iran Avenue, and hold a press talk, Radio Pakistan said, adding that the PM would also host a lunch for the Iranian President and his delegation.

The two sides will have a wide-ranging agenda to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields including trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts.

Their talks will focus on regional and global developments and bilateral cooperation to combat the common threat of terrorism.

Pakistan and Iran enjoy strong bilateral ties anchored in history, culture, and religion. This visit provides an important opportunity to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran relations, according to the Foreign Office.

President Raisi is visiting Pakistan months after the cordial ties between the two neighbors suffered a setback when Tehran shocked Islamabad by carrying out airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts in the restive Balochistan province in January.

Pakistan swiftly responded by using killer drones and rockets to carry out precision military strikes against what it called terrorist hideouts in Iran’s Siestan-Balochistan province, killing 9 people.

However, the two sides acted fast to restrain tempers through diplomatic channels. Raisi’s visit is expected to further cement their ties.


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