Pakistan-Iran Relations Back on Track After Mutual Agreement to Return Ambassadors

Pakistan and Iran have agreed to resume diplomatic relations and return their ambassadors to their respective posts by January 26, 2024, following a series of cross-border strikes that escalated tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

The Foreign Office announced on Monday that Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani had invited his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian to visit Pakistan on January 29, and that the latter had accepted the invitation.

The joint statement by the two foreign offices said that the visit would provide an opportunity to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest and to enhance cooperation in various fields.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Iran Mudassir Tipu, who had been recalled by Islamabad on January 17, expressed his delight on X that the leaderships of both countries had handled the challenging situation astutely and swiftly put the relations back on track.

He said that Pakistan and Iran had great potential ahead and that both brotherly countries must collectively promote peace and development in the region.

The diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and Iran was triggered by Iran’s violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty on January 17, when it launched missile and drone attacks on militant bases in Balochistan, killing two children and injuring three girls.

Pakistan strongly condemned the unprovoked attack and said that it was unacceptable and could have serious consequences. It also withdrew its ambassador from Tehran and barred the Iranian envoy from returning to Islamabad.

In response, Pakistan carried out retaliatory strikes on January 18, targeting the hideouts of Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) inside Iran. The Pakistan Army said that the strikes were conducted with drones, rockets and long-range missiles and that they were based on credible intelligence of impending large-scale terrorist activities.

The exchange of strikes was the highest-profile cross-border intrusion in recent years and raised alarm over the wider instability in the Middle East, where several overlapping crises are unfolding.

Israel is fighting the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza and exchanging fire with Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria are targeting US forces, and the US and UK have struck the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, who have been attacking shipping.

Iran and its militia allies have also been carrying out attacks on Israeli and US targets in the region in support of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Pakistan and Iran share a long and porous border and have a history of cooperation and rivalry. Both countries have common interests in combating terrorism, promoting trade and connectivity, and maintaining regional stability.

However, they also have divergent views on some issues, such as the role of Saudi Arabia and the US in the region, the Afghan peace process, and the nuclear deal.

The restoration of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Iran is a welcome development that could pave the way for more constructive engagement and dialogue on the challenges and opportunities facing the two countries and the region.

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