washington : Identifying Pakistan as a key country in the region, a top Pentagon commander has told American lawmakers that relations with Islamabad are on a positive slope now. “I think our relations with Pakistan are critical,” General Lloyd J Austin, nominee for commander US Central Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing the other day. “My goal would be to immediately work to continue to boost 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 a 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 have enjoyed that as a safe haven.” Senator Joseph Donnelly observed Pakistan posed 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 to 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.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 16-Feb-2013 here.