Clouds of mistrust are finally dissipating, giving a way to the rays of hope and mutual trust between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Russia. For a friendly diplomatic relationship in the region, it is essential to mobilize its true economic, political and social potential, especially for the Central Asian states. William Clay’s saying that “This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests” is fast becoming true. Non diplomatic and aggressive policies of the Trump administration are proving key, to this upcoming change. After the events of 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice. Pakistan was forced to join the so called “Global War on Terror”, causing a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars to its economy and over 87,000 innocent lives. While the bulk of the Pakistan Armed Forces, including the Pakistan Air Force, has been deployed on its western borders to fight this American war over the last one and a half decades, successive US administrations have always treated Pakistan with mistrust and the rhetoric of “Do More”. Of late, the US has cut $800 million military aid and also withdrawn training facilities to the Pakistan Armed Forces. The United States is also influencing the world’s monetary organizations to deny any bailout packages to Pakistan. Russia, which was once considered a staunch enemy during the Cold War era, has gradually opened up to Pakistan. During the past few years there have been frequent exchanges of high level diplomatic and military visits. The Bajwa Doctrine envisages a peaceful relationship with its neighbours, especially Afghanistan, Iran and Russia across the Central Asian Republics. Pakistan is currently meeting approximately 70 percent of its defence needs from China, while the Pakistan Army is also an unwritten guarantor of CPEC, further fortifying the Pakistan-China relationship. Now Russia too has gradually opened its defence market to Pakistan, and is offering training programs for the Pakistan Armed Forces, as well as joint exercises. These actions have improved the status of Russia from an enemy to a friend, and a possible partner in development for the Gwadar Port. Pakistan is in the process of integrating its Federally Administrative Areas into the mainstream, abolishing the buffer zone kept by the British Raj to guard against the possible Russian invasion across the Durand Line. Pakistan has also been able to convey its sincerity in promoting peace to the Afghan government, even though, to the US government’s dismay, the Taliban now control almost 70 percent of the country. Pakistan is also in the process of constructing a fence along the Afghan border, which will also address the longstanding issue of demarcation of the Pak-Afghan international border. Pakistan is currently meeting approximately 70 percent of its defence needs from China, while the Pakistan Army is also an unwritten guarantor of CPEC, further fortifying the Pakistan-China relationship. Now Russia too has gradually opened its defence market to Pakistan, and is offering training programs for the Pakistan Armed Forces, as well as joint exercises There is also a visible change in relationship between Iran and Pakistan. There is a growing level of level between the two countries. Pakistan has been able to convince Iran that the Taliban are the actual power to be reckoned with in Afghanistan and prolonged stay of Extra Regional Forces in Afghanistan is detrimental to the regional peace and security. Growing US sanctions against Iran are also forcing it to look for diplomatic and economic avenues in the region. Prime Minster Imran Khan in his opening speech impressed upon the need to have good bilateral relations with all our neighbours, including India. He also offered to begin a dialogue on the peaceful resolution of the long standing Kashmir issue. During the recent visit of the US Secretary of State, it was made clear that Pakistan has had enough of its share of the “War on Terror” and that there were no terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. While addressing Defence and Shuhada Day celebrations in the General Headquarters, the Prime Minister assured the Defence Forces that Pakistan would not fight the war of other nations anymore. It is a good omen that all elements of National Power, perhaps for the first time in the history of Pakistan, are on one page over the various issues confronting the nation. These include foreign policy, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, water crises, corruption and so on. In this scenario, when China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are almost at consensus to solve the Afghan problem through dialogue with Taliban, the US will be left with no option but to fall in line, and resume talks with the Taliban, something that they are already in the process of initiating. Let’s hope and pray that the Afghan issue is resolved under the umbrella of Regional Powers. This will allow peace and prosperity to return to the area and help to utilize the full potential of this Central and South Asian region. India will be left with no choice to reconcile its policy to accrue benefits of CPEC, and the result will across the board regional integration and free access to the Central Asian Republics. It is finally time for change. The writer is a defence and security analyst based in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, September 20th 2018.