Presidents of Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari (L), Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad (C) and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai (R). – AFP

ISLAMABAD: A two-day summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran opens here on Thursday to advance efforts for enhancing mutual cooperation and establishing peace and security in the region.

Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will attend the summit being hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Afghanistan is likely to be the focus of the third trilateral summit whose agenda includes border management, cooperation on counter-terrorism and transnational organised crimes, including drug and human trafficking.

Mr Karzai is expected to arrive in Islamabad in the morning and Mr Ahmadinejad in the afternoon.

Going by the outcome of the two previous summits, expectations for a comprehensive and meaningful progress on regional cooperation at the third edition are modest, at best. Deep divergences and mistrust between the three countries mar any prospect of their cooperation despite their publicly-stated desire to work closely with each other. American influence on Pakistan and Afghanistan is another key factor hindering their cooperation with Iran.

“Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are brotherly neighbours. Their multifaceted cooperation is essential to address the challenges and exploit opportunities in our common region,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told Dawn.

He expressed the hope that the trilateral summit would be a significant step in promoting the agenda of regional peace, stability and prosperity.

The head of Afghan section at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohsen Pak-Aeen, was quoted by Mehr News Agency of Iran as having said: “Tehran has a positive view on the trilateral summit … in line with the efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan.”

Presidents of Afghanistan and Iran will separately hold bilateral meetings with the Pakistani leadership on the sidelines of the summit. Bulk of substantive discussions, a source said, would take place in the bilateral meetings.

President Ahmadinejad, according to the source, is expected to focus on energy cooperation with Pakistan. He is likely to seek concrete assurances from the Pakistani leadership that Islamabad will not backtrack on gas pipeline and electricity import projects because of pressure from the United States for implementing the UN sanctions on Tehran.

President Karzai, on the other hand, will be more interested in discussing Pakistan’s support for peace talks with Afghan insurgent leaders based here.

Pakistan has on a number of occasions expressed its resolve to support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned efforts for reconciliation with the Taliban.

Sources say the two sides may agree on reviving their joint commission for peace and reconciliation which is lying suspended since the assassination of Afghan High Peace Council chief Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Afghanistan had suspended its joint peace efforts with Pakistan following Mr Rabbani’s killing, which Kabul blamed on Quetta-based elements.

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