NEW YORK - An American expert on South Asia has called for a high-level dialogue with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, proposing an early visit to Islamabad by Secretary of State John Kerry as "Pakistan is too important to give up on."

"The Secretary (Kerry) needs to make an early trip there. It would be wise to invite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington early to try to see if the duo can find common ground on some of these important issues," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, said, referring to a number of problems related to the region.  "At a minimum, we want to encourage Sharif's opening to India," he said in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine. "We also want Pakistan's cooperation as we move our forces out of Afghanistan."

Riedel added, "Even as we recognise that they may be playing a double game there, it's still in our interest to have a high-level dialogue with the new Prime Minister."

Although the country's "internal security situation is grim," he said that the inauguration of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister--the first time that two Pakistani civilian governments have succeeded each other peacefully--is an encouraging milestone.

Moreover, Riedel is hopeful that Sharif can deal successfully with India, which he says is "the single most important thing" for the future of South Asia.

He urged Washington to take this opportunity to rebuild relations with Islamabad. "You can be pessimistic about Pakistan and you'll often be right, but Pakistan is too important to give up on."

Riedel, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution who advised President Barack Obama early in his first term on counterterrorism, notes Nawaz Sharif's  constructive role as the Opposition leader in the last five years.

Nawaz Sharif also deserves credit for the landmark democratic transition Pakistan has witnessed with the completion of the electoral process, he added.