ISLAMABAD: In an obvious reference to Iran, Bahrain said on Thursday that it expected Pakistan to have a moderating effect on Muslim countries in the region.
“We look forward to Pakistan having influence of moderation and peace,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said at a press conference at the conclusion of the three-day visit of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
During the king’s visit, Bahrain raised the issue of its troubled ties with Iran, accusing it of interference in the kingdom, which recently witnessed an uprising against the monarchy.
Pakistan helped it in putting down the revolt by allowing Bahrain to recruit retired security personnel for its security forces.
A joint communique issued at the conclusion of the visit said the two sides had exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest and stressed the importance of peaceful resolution of all issues, both regional and extra-regional, through dialogue.
Though the Bahraini foreign minister denied having sought Pakistani support against Iran or asking Islamabad for mediation, his statement at the media conference hinted at Manama’s desire for outside help in fixing problems with Tehran.
The foreign minister said his government wanted to mend fences with Iran, but the Iranian government was not serious in a rapprochement.
“We want them to take steps to mend this relationship,” he added.
On finding Pakistan’s government not too keen in further discussing the Iran issue because of local political expediencies, Foreign Minister Khalifa said: “We have explained our position at meetings and agree that Pakistan has to have balanced relations with all countries in the region.”
Speaking about Pak-Bahrain defence cooperation, the foreign minister said it was historical and wide-ranging.
Recalling the King Hamad’s unprecedented visit to Joint Services Headquarters, he said the trip marked the “culmination” of one phase of cooperation and laid the foundation for much more extensive relationship in future.
He refused to give details about the nature of defence cooperation being worked out by the two countries, saying it should be left for the military side. He did not deny that Pakistan was considering sending more security forces to Bahrain and said details of cooperation could not be disclosed.
The joint communique said that both countries, while agreeing to intensification of bilateral defence and security cooperation, decided to initiate annual security dialogue.
“It was also decided to strengthen sharing of information, intelligence and assessments,” the communique added.
Bahrain has reportedly shown interest in making defence purchases from Pakistan and also sought help in military training.
The communique further noted that there was agreement on further enhancing high-level political exchanges, cooperation in the fields of economic, trade and investment, defence and security and people-to-people contacts.
The two sides agreed to a meeting of foreign ministers in later half of this year to continue their consultations, which the communique said would serve as an umbrella framework for bilateral cooperation.