Identifying Pakistan as a key country in the region, a top Pentagon commander has told American lawmakers that Washington's relationship with Islamabad is on a positive slope now."I think our relationship with Pakistan is critical. It is a key country in the region," General Lloyd J Austin, nominee for Commander, US Central Command, told members of Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing yesterday."My goal would be to immediately work to continue to build upon the existing relationship, which is on somewhat of a positive slope right now, a positive path. I want to continue to build on that. They will be key throughout going into the future," Austin said during his confirmation hearing responding to questions from Senators on Pakistan."Among the greatest threats to stability are the safe havens for Afghan insurgents across the Pakistan border, which the government of Pakistan has failed to disrupt or eliminate," said Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.Ranking Republican Senator James Inhofe said: "(In) Pakistan, we see a nuclear-armed government teetering on collapse while militant groups such as -- all the military groups that have enjoyed that as a safe haven."Senator Joseph Donnelly observed that Pakistan poses a challenge to the US."One of the challenges has always been Pakistan and our working relationship with Pakistan. As we go through the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, both men and women and equipment, I would think one of the things we want to do is continue to work closely with Pakistan on that plan but also have alternative options, if there are bumps in the road as we proceed forward with borders and with other things," he said.