Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s relationship might not have been the most smooth-sailing among neighbours, but it appears that era of hostility, and volatile relations, is in the past. Change arrives at the right end of this government’s reign, as Afghanistan and Pakistan aim to start a new policy of diplomacy and friendship, after years of not-so-nice cordialities exchanged between the two countries.

The two countries, neighbours in land, and in tragedy, have decided to embark upon a “fresh start” for relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The credit for this new found diplomacy goes to the new bilateral engagement framework between the two countries— Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).

Considering the fact that Afghanistan shares a lot of its culture and tradition with one of Pakistan’s provinces, KPK, and due to their mutual battle against the menace of terrorism, an outsider would think Pakistan and Afghanistan make natural allies. Unfortunately, monstrous issues like the Cold War, Taliban skirmishes, the refugee issue and the omnipresent ally United States looming over, have caused an unstable relationship between us and our northern neighbour, with relations mostly being hostile.

So what is about the APAPPS that promises to be different, and to bring forth a new era of Pak-Afghan friendship? The new framework is based on a set of seven principles, which include commitments that Pakistan would support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation; the two countries would undertake effective actions against fugitives and the irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either of the two countries, and that both countries would deny use of their respective territory by any country, network, group or individuals for anti-state activities against either country.

These conditions leave vague how Pakistan will handle Afghan citizens or refugees in its country, or Afghan-Pak citizens and protests in Pakistan, but the fact that both countries conceded to this bilateral agreement which doesn’t leave any punches is a victory.

It would not be too cynical to view these developments with a pinch of scepticism however. Countless times we have seen Pakistan and Afghanistan bring themselves to the negotiating table, only for one of the country to leave prematurely for some inane trade issue, or due to the aftermath of an attach. It is hoped that this time both countries are committed to long-term relations; we can’t choose our neighbours so conciliation is really the only option we have.