With its third year in power nearly coming to an end, the PML-N government’s foreign policy looks to remain unchanged in the coming year.

An internal document circulated by the foreign secretary reveals that improved bilateral relations with the neighbour are to dominate the agenda in 2016. However, given the cyclical nature of the relationship between the two countries, the Foreign Office will have to be more effective than it has been so far. Indeed, it will have to steer clear of giving in to the temptation of accusing India of misdeeds - as Sartaj Aziz did in 2015 - whenever the eastern neighbour does the same.

The cancellation of the NSA level talks following Pathankot is yet another example of how easy it is for talks to get derailed. The lack of trust between the two countries has been systematically ingrained in the minds of the people of both countries for over sixty years; and this is not going to change at the drop of a hat. The current impasse however, is by no means insurmountable. But given that Pakistan’s findings from the SIT constituted to investigate Masood Azhar’s connection to Pathankot have come out negative, India is not likely to agree to holding dialogue just yet. The Foreign Office needs to be prepared for the worst, and must start making contingency plans.

On the Western border, the world is still not entirely convinced that Pakistan is fully committed to the peace process in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is expecting Pakistan to play a leading role in bringing factions of the Taliban to the table in the talks scheduled for later this month. The Foreign Office has nothing to do with this, but the establishment has made commitments too, and it is time to see how earnest these promises were.

The way the government has handled two crises in the Middle East with the Yemen conflict and the breakdown in the Iran-Saudi relations must be lauded. Admittedly, Pakistan’s hopes of becoming a key player in international politics have been diminished by the refusal of Pakistan’s offer to mediate by Saudi Arabia, but the government has managed to protect the country’s interest in this matter by not supporting the kingdom blindly. Ignoring a few hiccups such as commenting on trials in Bangladesh and neglecting the Iran-Pak gas pipeline, Pakistan has shown maturity in the foreign arena, but the government’s attempt to put together the jigsaw of improving regional ties is still missing the biggest piece; India.