Following Imran Khan’s ascent to the post of Prime Minister, the new government has been swamped by delegation after delegation from foreign countries seeking to get a jump start on diplomatic relations with the newly formed government. While many of these meetings were already on the government’s priority list – such as the attempted “reset” with the USA and the reaffirmation of bilateral cooperation with China – the barrage of foreign policy meetings has kept the government busy and reactive. Now that we seem to have come to a relative lull in proceedings, the Foreign Office is set to start work on its own proactive agenda. As such the first international visit by the Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, is to Afghanistan – as it should be.

Our neighboring country is the keystone to stability in the region; a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is crucial for that. That may seem like a distant dream at the moment, given the deteriorating situation in the country, but it an objective towards which the Pakistani government must strive towards at all cost.

It is essential that Pakistan and Afghanistan have an effective working relationship for that to become a possibility. President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan immediately following his election raised hopes of better bilateral ties between the two countries, but almost as a mirror of Pakistan-US ties, relations with Afghanistan have continued to worsen over the years. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that the disconnect between the two countries has never been this stark. More than a diplomatic breakdown, the perception among many Afghan citizens, that Pakistan is to blame for its woes, is the biggest hurdle to better relations.

The Foreign Minister daylong visit to Kabul is primarily intended to “improve coordination on security-related issues between the two countries” according to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. While there, an invitation will also be extended to the Afghan President to visit Pakistan.

Given that, Pakistan shouldn’t expect great breakthroughs from this visit – like the USA’s visit, this trip will only seek to reset diplomatic ties with Afghanistan. The real breakthrough will come when, and if, the two countries agree to restart meaningful talks and then follow through on this commitment with intent and diligence.

It is commendable that the government recognises this fact, and that their first foreign policy initiative is to improve relations with Afghanistan. Where the result of the recent foreign policy meetings has been to mostly reaffirm the course already established by previous governments, with Afghanistan, Imran Khan can deliver on a foreign policy success that will be his own.