Iranian, Pakistani Leaders Vow to Boost Trade in Meeting That Seeks to Mend Diplomatic Rift

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
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Iranian, Pakistani Leaders Vow to Boost Trade in Meeting That Seeks to Mend Diplomatic Rift

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)

Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift.

Their meeting was part of efforts by Islamabad and Tehran to mend ties which had been briefly strained in January when each carried out strikes in other's territory, targeting militants accused of attacking their own security forces.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharifin spoke to reporters after meeting at Sharif's office, hours after Raisi arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit.

Authorities have deployed hundreds of additional police and paramilitary forces to ensure security during the visit.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence in recent months, mostly blamed on Pakistani Taliban and insurgents targeting security forces in Pakistan and neighboring Iran.

Sharif welcomed Raisi with an honor guard ceremony in front of the premier's office. According to a statement released by the premier’s office, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral issues and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism, as well as jointly reiterating condemnations of Israel's war in Gaza.

Sharif praised Iran’s “strong stand on the issue of Palestine” and said “Pakistan is also with the Palestinians.”

In his televised remarks, Raisi said that the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries. He criticized the international organizations, including the United Nations, saying “they say they support human rights, but they proved that they are inefficient”.

He also vowed to boost what he called “unacceptably” meager bilateral trade and called for setting up more border markers. Pakistan and Iran set up the first such border market in southwestern Pakistan's Baluchistan province last year, promising to set up five more such markets under a 2012 agreement.

The two leaders also signed eight cooperation agreements, according to Sharif's office.

Authorities said the two sides also discussed the multi-billion gas pipeline project, on hold since 2014. The project — opposed by Washington for what it says is a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program — launched in 2013 to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Iran says it has already completed the pipeline on its side of the border after investing $2 billion. Pakistan was supposed to finish construction on its territory by the end of 2014, but work stalled, leading to tensions between the two nations.

The Iranian president is set to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Asil Ali Zardari who helped launch the pipeline project after travelling to Iran in 2013.

He also met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar. The two discussed regional and global developments and “affirmed commitment to peace and constructive dialogue for resolving regional challenges.”

Raisi is accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation. He plans to visit Karachi, the country's biggest city, and Lahore, where he will meet with the country's recently elected first female chief minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

The visit comes after Iran's airstrike into Israel, which was in response to an Israeli strike in Syria that had killed two Iranian generals in a consular building. Pakistan is among the countries that has no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the issue of Palestinian statehood.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.