Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Iran on 21st April on the invitation of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassam Rouhani. The visit of PM Khan can prove to be a hallmark of a new epoch in the bilateral relations between Islamabad and Tehran. It is the best chance for both countries to re-think their relationship. Despite enormous potentials of gaining from each other through cultural, linguistic, religious and territorial ties, the relations between the two sides have remained lukewarm. If we attempt to present the bilateral ties of the two sides on a graph, it will show a sinusoidal curve: sometimes extremely cordial and other times very cold.

Recently, the two sides have once again witnessed deterioration in their relations over border security. And if sources are to be believed, the issue of border security will be on the top of PM’s agenda. It is crucial for both sides to settle all the outstanding issues relating to border security. In the present times, when regionalism is once again gaining currency and Eurasia as a concept is in vogue, both countries need to get over minor issues and exploit the fruits of their geo-strategic locations by forging an unbreakable partnership in infrastructural and economic development.

Both sides need to realise that each one them is an independent and sovereign state. Both of them are free to develop ties with other countries. Neither of them should be suspicious of each other’s links or partnerships with other countries. However, at the same time, both sides should also not allow utility of their territories by other states to destabilise one of the two countries. This way both Islamabad and Tehran can reduce trust deficit, which is eroding the bilateral relations, over border security issues. Both sides need to keep the wider kaleidoscope of regional geopolitics in mind if a healthy culture of cooperation and development is what Pakistan and Iran want to achieve.

On the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif last September, the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan after PTI-led coalition government assumed power in Pakistan, Imran Khan then had emphasised the importance of both countries in the region be saying that the two countries were vital to growth and prosperity in the region. It is about time for both sides to take concrete measures in this regard by enhancing connectivity and promoting people to people exchanges. Nevertheless, the visit of PM Khan will be the barometer of our regional policy.