Pakistan downs Iranian spy drone, raising alarm over diplomatic relations
QUETTA -- Pakistan has shot down an unmanned Iranian drone inside its territory in Panjgur, Balochistan Province, said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry Wednesday (June 21).
The Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle crossed over the border Monday (June 19), the ministry said in a statement.
"The drone was hit by the Pakistan Air Force as it was unidentified and was flying at around 3-4 kilometres inside Pakistani territory," the statement said.
"Pakistan has already shared the information about striking down of this drone with the Iranian authorities indicating that the drone was struck down by our security forces as it was unmarked and there was no prior information about its flight," it said.
Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan Province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been the scene of armed clashes in recent months between Iranian forces and armed militant groups.
Tehran in April protested to Islamabad over an alleged cross-border raid by armed "anti-state" elements that resulted in the deaths of at least 10 Iranian security personnel.
The latest incident raises concerns again over Iran's "double game" in the region, say Pakistani officials and security analysts.
'Iranian aggression is not a solution'
"We have severe apprehensions over the gross Iranian aggression on our soil," Muhammad Bilal, a senior Ministry of Defence official in Islamabad, told Pakistan Forward. "Pakistan will never allow any country to violate our integrity."
"The Iranian spying attempt on Pakistani soil shows that Iran is not following the rules and regulations in bilateral dealings," he said, adding that because of Pakistan's "comprehensive security mechanism ... no one can achieve ... any spy mission here."
"Our JF-17 Thunder Fighter Jet was used to destroy the drone in ... Panjgur District of Balochistan," he said. "The wreckage ... was later recovered in Parom, on the outskirts of the district."
"Pakistan shares a 900km-long border with Iran, and we have taken every possible step to maintain the security of the border in our territory," Bilal said. "Rather than depending on futile spying attempts, the Iranian government must ensure the security of its own border."
"We cannot compromise our national security by any means," he said, adding that Pakistani forces are ready to respond to any transgression.
"The Iranian aggression is not a solution to any conflict," he said. "Iran must follow the rules regarding international borders."
Iran must take responsibility, said Muhammad Abid, a senior Interior Ministry official based in Quetta.
"Iran must not blame others for its own ... failure," he told Pakistan Forward. "It is the responsibility of [the Iranian] state to follow the international rules in bilateral relations."
"We believe in peace and harmony in the region and expect that Iran will also follow the lasting peace agenda, rather leveling baseless allegations," he said.
"The surge in cross-border violence is causing tension between Iran and Pakistan, and the repeated incidents of Iranian forces' firing on Pakistani border areas highlight the Iranian aggression," Abid said.
This is the inability or unwillingness of Iran to stop violence in its own territory, he said. "Tehran's blame game and behaviour are evidence that it is not considering the realities on the ground."
Diplomacy essential for regional peace
"Both Pakistan and Iran need to have sustained diplomatic engagements for peace in the region," said Maj. (ret.) Muhammad Omar, a senior defence and security analyst in Islamabad.
"Iran is focused on its own priorities and not taking the necessary interest in strengthening bilateral relations," he told Pakistan Forward. "For peace and stability, it is imperative to follow international law in handling issues of mutual interest."
"It was indeed another massive violation that an Iranian drone was found spying in Pakistani territory," he said. "The quick Pakistani retaliation shows that Pakistan has taken enough steps to ensure security of its own soil."
"Iran is dreaming if it thinks Pakistan will remain silent over this violation," he said.
An untoward situation
"The growing Iranian aggression in Pakistan is not tolerable by any means," Islamabad-based defence analyst Mohammad Rashid told Pakistan Forward. "It may cause a more chaotic situation for Iran because Pakistan is now seriously thinking of revisiting its policy toward Iran."
The cross-border tension between Pakistan and Iran is leading the two countries to an untoward situation, he warned. "The Iranian military may not be capable of handling the situation as it is already in a war in Syria and with some other Gulf countries."
"The homegrown conflict Iran is facing in .. Sistan-Balochistan Province and other areas is affecting the country's internal security," Rashid said. "Without forming a comprehensive strategy for handling militant groups, peace cannot prevail in the areas linked along the Pakistan-Iran border."