Iran, Pakistan to set up border 'reaction force' after attacks

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to set up a joint border “reaction force” following a number of deadly attacks by militant groups on their frontier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Monday after talks with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rouhani told a joint news conference, following months of increased tensions over attacks on both sides of the frontier.

Khan’s visit to Iran, the first since he took office last year, comes after gunmen who Islamabad says were based in Iran killed 14 members of Pakistan’s security forces last week in its own Balochistan province.

“The security chief will sit down with his counterpart here and discuss (security) cooperation,” Khan said, although no details were given on the joint force.

“We trust that both countries will not have terrorist activities from their soil … We will not allow any damage to your country from our soil,” said the Pakistani premier who started a two-day visit on Sunday.

In March, Rouhani demanded Pakistan act “decisively against anti-Iranian terrorists”, following a February 13 attack that killed 27 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in Sistan-Baluchistan.

Stressing that “no third country” could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States and its policy of isolating the Islamic republic, Rouhani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

“In the current situation the region’s countries must decide and plan for their interests independently and directly,” Rouhani said.

“Iran is ready to meet Pakistan’s oil and gas demands … (and) we are ready to increase (electricity) exports to Pakistan ten-fold,” he added.

He said cooperation between Chabahar port in southeast Iran and Pakistan’s Gwadar port can be increased, and that Tehran could facilitate the construction of a railroad connecting Istanbul to Islamabad.