In line with the highly pragmatic principle of having an environment that is conducive to peace and progress, the Prime Minister directed the Foreign Ministry to frame policies that could make for improved relations with the neighbouring countries, policies designed to advance national development goals and enhance Pakistan’s international stature. Addressing officials of the Ministry where Mian Nawaz Sharif received "in-depth briefing" on the various foreign policy issues relating to India, Afghanistan, China and Iran on Saturday, he advised them to focus on the promotion of economic and commercial ties. Pakistan’s concerns about policies of the US also came up for discussion. The US is not only intimately involved in the region, but is also the sole superpower and the biggest economic powerhouse in the world whose policies cast their impact all around. How to get rid of the irritating drones was seriously debated, but one believes it is only possible if Washington could be convinced that Islamabad itself could take care of the mopping up of Al-Qaeda remnants.

Stress on strengthening the economy is of unquestionable relevance to our needs, no doubt, but in the context of relations with New Delhi, it is pregnant with serious dangers, unless tied with resolution of disputes. Kashmir, in particular, if not settled soon, could spell disaster to our agriculture, the mainstay of the Pakistan’s economy, since it is relentlessly diverting our rivers whose headwaters lie in the occupied state. Mian Nawaz should know that it is not just the Kashmiris, who feel disillusioned and let down by his unconditional overtures of friendship to India, but the Pakistanis are equally perturbed. He had better rein in his instinct of adopting an expansive attitude towards it without ensuring a matching response to matters of our concern. Instead of positive signals coming from across Wagah, the recently-revealed stories of India’s own hand in staging Parliament attack as well as the Mumbai massacre keep distrust of India alive here.

Dialogue with Kabul is as important as dialogue with New Delhi for sorting out differences in a peaceful manner. Adviser Sartaj Aziz has a tough job to do in Afghanistan, as his assurances of non-interference in its affairs, Mian Sahib’s policy of ‘no favourites’ among the various parties or groups there, would be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet peace on the western front stipulates deep understanding with Afghan leadership and that must be a cardinal principle of our policy.