ISLAMABAD: Pakistan warned Iran yesterday not to send troops across the two countries’ shared border to retrieve five kidnapped Iranian border guards, an incident that threatens to exacerbate regional and sectarian tensions.
On Monday, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli was quoted as saying Iran might consider sending its forces onto Pakistani soil if Pakistan did not take the steps necessary to fight against militants.
“Iranian forces have no authority to cross our borders in violation of the international law. We must respect each other’s borders,” the Pakistani government statement said.
Predominantly Shia Iran says militants seized the guards about 5km inside Iran on February 6 in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan and took them into Pakistan.
A Sunni insurgent Iranian group calling itself Jaish Al Adl (Army of Justice) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, according to a Twitter account purporting to belong to the group. Its authenticity could not be immediately verified.
“The government of Pakistan regrets the suggestions of negligence on its part over the incident, especially when Pakistan’s active support against terrorists groups in the past, is well-known and acknowledged by Iran,” the Pakistani statement said.
Pakistan said it was in contact with Iran and had searched the area looking for the abducted border guards but been unable to find them in the mountainous, sparsely populated area.
The area where the kidnappings took place has a history of violence and sectarian problems.
Both countries are Muslim, but Pakistan is a majority Sunni state with a minority of Shias. Iran is the reverse. In both countries, the minority sect complains of discrimination.
Since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office, Pakistan has moved to align itself more closely with Saudi Arabia, the country that gave Sharif a home when he was exiled after a coup.
Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are arch rivals for influence in the Muslim world.
Relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have spanned since the common prehistoric Indo-Iranian heritage.
After the establishment of Pakistan on August 1947, Iran has a unique distinction of being the first country to internationally recognise the status of Pakistan.
As of current, both countries are economic partners and large-scale tourism and migration between the two nations has increased rapport. This cooperation would continue throughout the Cold war with Iran supporting Pakistan in its conflicts with arch-rival, India. In return, Pakistan went on to support Iran militarily during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s.