WASHINGTON  - Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman on Tuesday underscored the need for fostering mutual trust in the relationship and moving forward with clear goals for peace, security and development at a time of important transitions in the region up to 2014.

In her wide-ranging speech to the Atlantic Council, the top diplomat advocated Pakistan’s case for greater trade access to the US as one of the pivots that could underpin the relationship over the long-term.

At the same time, she said, Islamabad and Washington had been able to restore their bilateral relationship after a stressful 2011 year and now multiple working groups on vital strategic issues of common concern were back working together.

However, Sherry noted that the immediate impact of 2014 NATO drawdown from Afghanistan was on everyone’s mind in Islamabad. She underlined the importance of upcoming developments in the region by saying “there can be no drawdown for Pakistan” as it had to live in the region.

Islamabad, she said, was pursuing a policy of its own regional pivot, which did not see Afghanistan as its strategic backyard and aimed at transforming Pakistan into a hub of trade and economic cooperation for Central and South Asia.

“It is very important to use the opportunity to bridge the gaps we may be facing in terms of understanding what we are looking for, where we are headed and what gains we can make as strategic allies together,” she said of the ties between the two states at the widely-attended event, moderated by South Asia Director of the Council Shuja Nawaz.

Sherry Rehman, who spoke in the backdrop of 2011 troubled bilateral relationship, particularly noted the need for bridging what she called the ‘cognitive disconnect’.

Since the 1980s she felt the two countries had not drifted strategically apart so much as the fact that they had not been speaking to each other consistently about the expectations and limits to each other's capacity. “We need to understand each other better because we need to work together.”

Referring to imminent transitions in Afghanistan, the envoy stated, “There is a bandwidth of possibility and policy options between the two countries that we can leverage to achieve a great deal in the region as it transitions.”

“That transition is of great importance to us we have a clear strategic goal of securing and winning peace together. This is very important. Pakistan has the most to lose from an unstable Afghanistan, and will support all Afghan-led roadmaps to a negotiated peace settlement. What we will not do is play favourites or treat Afghanistan. Pakistan has learnt important lessons from the past. We hope our other partners also use strategic lessons from history to navigate important policy frameworks for the way forward."

The two countries needed to address the neuralgia of distrust that had built up since US abandonment of the region in the aftermath of the 1989 Soviet pullout from Afghanistan. In this respect, she cited the importance of maintaining predictability, trust and confidence in the relationship.

Sherry also spoke of Pakistan’s massive sacrifices and sufferings in the fight against terrorism as well as the colossal economic losses to investment and business activity due to the prolonged conflict on its western border, and said the narrative in Washington must take into account these repercussions.

Regarding the contentious issue of drone operations that the US launched to target suspected militant targets in the Tribal Areas, the ambassador said using the unmanned aerial vehicles inside Pakistani territory was not a good idea. She reiterated Islamabad’s position that drone strikes breached Pakistan’s sovereignty and international laws and risk having diminishing returns for the United States in terms of its image and fuelling militancy. “The two countries should also rely on formal channels of communication and not talk through the media. The calls for doing more also don’t help.”

Other areas, where Pakistan had concerns and wanted international cooperation to deal with included massive population of Afghan refugees and curbing narcotics trafficking, the Pakistani envoy concluded.