The Obama administration's new initiative to bring enduring peace to the Pakistan and Afghanistan presents both a cause for concern as well as a long awaited and much needed new beginning.
It is still too early to make a firm judgement on the matter. Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to the region, has just concluded his first tour of the area.
Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama's key foreign policy planners are still at the drawing board.
But if this initiative will simply revolve around pulling 30,000 US soldiers out of Iraq, as suggested by the new US administration, and redeploying them in Afghanistan, it is hardly impressive.
Other broad contours of the same policy include promises such as giving up to $15 billion (Dh55.1 billion) to Pakistan in the next decade or so. But history tells us that multiple billions of dollars will also not necessarily bring relief to the region.
Under former US president George W. Bush, Washington gave more than $10 billion to Pakistan between 2001 and the end of the 2007. However, even today, questions remain over how much of that money went to waste given that there haven't been too many signs that the country's population benefited.
There are plenty of lessons for policy makers in the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan to embrace in appreciating exactly how things have gone off track in the past decade or so.
We will look at three.
First, relations that depend on individual leaders, without reference to national interests, are unlikely to be sustainable. A major flaw with the way the US built its ties with Pakistan in the years after the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks, was fundamentally that of bolstering Pervez Musharraf, the country's former president. Similarly, in Afghanistan, a major part of the US effort involved strengthening President Hamid Karzai.
The big problem here is that once these individual leaders leave the scene, as has already happened in the case of Musharraf, the relationship between the countries loses some of its gloss.
Second, relations that are built on the basis of financial aid, without reference to the needs of ordinary people, will always attract criticism. Across the region, there is much evidence of this fundamental shortcoming. Any opinion poll conducted on the streets will reveal the widespread lack of appreciation for the billions of dollars the US has spent since 9/11.
A large chunk of this money has been spent on the military effort, leaving little for the promised spending on economic development. Within that economic effort too, there is much evidence of the money having been spent inefficiently, so that the effect on the people on the street has been reduced. The time has now come for a major accountability effort to take charge of future spending so that economic resources dedicated to this region are handled judiciously.
Finally, there must be a reality check to appreciate the best possible system of representation on the ground across the region. This consideration is vital for Washington's long term dealings with the area.
To begin with, the US must preclude acceptance of military regimes in either of the countries. History has shown time and again that any military led regime has simply not been able to tackle challenges beyond the very immediate ones. Furthermore, there must be a reality check on the system of representation best suited for each country.
Afghanistan can simply not become a democracy of the kind that prevails across the Western world today. Afghans are primarily a tribal society. To expect the central Asian country to become a Western-style democracy, driven by a US directed effort, will simply be a folly. Indeed, in the case of Afghanistan, methods other than purely tribal structures of representation are bound to fail.
On the contrary, Pakistan has time and again proven its yearning to become a democracy. In the past, the US has repeatedly made the mistake of backing military regimes such as the one led by Musharraf.
But the humiliating downfall of Musharraf, who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment, serves to further underline the glaring point that there can be no viable substitute to democratic rule in Pakistan.
Farhan Bokhari is a Pakistan-based commentator who writes on political and economic matters.