ISLAMABAD -  Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif flew to the United States on Tuesday on a three-day visit to hold talks with his counterpart Rex Tillerson as Islamabad and Washington aim to normalise ties.

Since August, the two uneasy allies have been blaming each other for non-cooperation in the war on terror.

The US claimed Pakistan was not serious in fighting terrorists, while Pakistan complained that the US was not acknowledging its sacrifices in the anti-terror campaign.

US President Donald Trump, in his first formal address to the nation as commander-in-chief on August 21, had warned Pakistan: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”

Pakistan reacted sharply to Trump’s scathing criticism and rejected his claims that Islamabad was sheltering the terrorists.

Pakistan’s civil and military leadership reminded Trump of the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror.

The US ambassador in Islamabad David Hale later clarified that the media had generally taken the policy piece by piece instead of interpreting it as a whole.

He maintained that President Trump did not blame Pakistan for failure in Afghanistan.

However, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Khawaja Asif held meetings with the US leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last month, which helped improvement in the relationship.

Abbasi met President Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence and they agreed to restart the dialogue process to bring ties back on track.  A US delegation is also expected to visit Islamabad this month for talks after Asif’s trip.

Foreign ministry officials said Asif would meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on October 4 (today) and other officials to discuss matters pertaining to “regional peace and security”.

He will also meet US National Security Adviser HR McMaster during the trip.

In addition, the foreign minister is scheduled to address a gathering at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on the US-Pakistan relations on October 5. Recently, the US had conveyed to Pakistan that it was not considering designating Pakistan a “terrorist state” despite the tense ties.

This came after a former Pentagon official, Michael Rubin, said US President Donald Trump’s administration should declare Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey as states sponsoring terrorism. Before Rubin, former US Senator Larry Pressler had said the Trump administration might declare Pakistan a terrorist state, if Islamabad did not satisfy Washington on its role against terrorism.

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan expected some good meetings during Asif’s US trip and the subsequent visit by a US delegation.

“The ties are improving due to diplomatic efforts. Khawaja Asif will discuss Trump’s Afghan policy and we hope to agree on cooperation,” he added.

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that Prime Minister Abbasi had a good meeting with the US leaders in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA and both the sides reiterated their desire for continued engagement.

Zakaria said Pakistan’s position on Afghanistan was very clear.

“We have said it time and again that peace and stability in Afghanistan is not only in Pakistan’s interest, but also that of the entire region. During Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif’s recent visits to regional countries, there was a convergence of interest on the security situation in the region, including in Afghanistan,” he added.