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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran are keen to rebuild their relationship plagued by mistrust and are eyeing cooperation for peace in Afghanistan and stronger economic ties between them.

“Pakistan and Iran are determined to take positive steps to deepen mutual understanding, increasing cooperation and scaling up bilateral relations,” National Assembly's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said while talking to Dawn on Thursday.

Many believe Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Tehran could reset the relationship. The rethink on both sides about the relationship has been driven by the regional developments.

“Both countries are consulting on regional peace and security with a focus on Afghanistan in keeping with their strong commitment to peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan,” Mr Bakhtyar said.

Pakistan and Iran have in the past coordinated on Afghanistan through the Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan trilateral process, but not much could be achieved due to multiple factors, particularly Iran-US rivalry that limited the space for cooperation with Tehran.

The NA body’s chief is, however, optimistic that latest attempt at renewing the relationship would be fruitful. In this regard, he points towards the efforts being made to improve border management as a concrete manifestation of the “forward looking approach” being pursued.

A statement issued at the conclusion of Gen Bajwa’s trip by the Inter-Services Public Relations said that steps for “establishment of hotline communication bet­ween the field commanders along Pak-Iran border, fencing by Iran on their side of the border, coordinated border patrolling, intelligence sharing and more frequent interactions were agreed to”.

Mr Bakhtyar noted that Pakistan was keen to reinforce economic cooperation and enhance connectivity between the two countries.

Speaking about the relationship with the US, he recalled that it was strategic and longstanding, but had been conducted in a transactional manner. His word of advice for Trump administration was that differences with Pakistan should not be turned into disputes. He also proposed resumption of bilateral strategic dialogue for a multifaceted engagement.

He cautioned US policymakers against becoming hostage of their own strategic construct of giving India the role of security provider in the region. Pushing this approach, he warned, could lead to “a strategic accident”. “The US should seek the truth in its Afghanistan strategy,” he said, insisting that the international community had failed to deliver peace to Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2017