Prime Minister Imran Khan began his two-day Iran visit with a mountain of difficult bilateral issues to sift through; yet he has shown that sometimes frank admission of fact and an earnest desire to make things right can be much more effective than carefully worded diplomatic jargon. Solving the diplomatic puzzle that Iran presents, in the current geopolitical landscape, is a difficult task, but the Prime Minister has started on the right foot.

It is encouraging to see that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has responded to Pakistan’s overtures in kind. The willingness of both states to enter into joint initiatives and deepen bilateral cooperation is crucial to this endeavor.

However, even before Pakistan begins to grapple with the regional tightrope it has to walk regarding the Saudi-Iranian standoff, and much more urgently than navigating the US-led sanctions regime on Iran, Pakistan has to solve its border issues with its neighbor. It is inexplicable how two neighboring states with centuries of cultural and religious affinity and no reason for conflict can still have sporadic border friction. Such issues should be the simplest to solve, and the proposed ‘Joint Rapid Reaction Force’ to guard common borders and planned meetings between respective military chiefs is exactly how this can be done.

Such cooperation also leads to solving another related problem; militants operating in the rugged border region between the two states, The fact that both states were willing to admit that their soil needs to be better policed to protect the other is a sizable step in the right direction – and a far cry from the stubborn positions held by each in years past. Both national leaders noted that the prime agenda of the meeting was terrorism and at this moment it should be.

The other aspect of talks - bilateral trade and mutual energy deals – might understandably be a secondary concern at the moment but it also needs to be afforded the similar urgency. The economic benefit to both states from improving on this front is self-evident and impossible to overstate. The long-term solidification of ties and the indemnity that affords against future strained relations is invaluable too.

Pakistan’s relations with Iran have always been measured relative to its relations with the US and Saudi Arabia. However this is no reason not to maintain robust bilateral ties and solve mutual issues as they arise. Furthermore, with the US’s eminent departure from the equation – given its inevitable withdrawal from Afghanistan and fractured relations with Pakistan – the axes to power in the region are shifting. It is time Iran and Pakistan take advantage of this opportunity.