Pakistanis were expecting a lot out of the meeting between Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, and US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson; especially after our recent diplomatic outreach in Afghanistan. It was hoped that the meeting would bring about some concrete cooperative steps from both parties but it seems like that reality is a little further down the road – for now both countries would have to content with promises of better relationships in the future.

The recent comments by Tillerson and US Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, have certainly been positive. Both have stressed strengthening the bilateral relationship with Pakistan and turning over a new page between both nations. However, all statements from the US administration remained guarded and conditional.

The US expressed worry on the political instability in Pakistan after the ousting of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and they feel that for the region to be stable, Pakistan needs to be stable too. Crucially, it has also reserved the right to keep “other options” on the table. These comments are markedly different from the sweeping declarations of friendship and common mission that were rife in past decades.

However, all is not lost. The conversations might have been guarded but both parties emphasised on working towards the improvement in bilateral relations. US Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, also acknowledged Pakistan’s initiative to mend ties with Afghanistan and work together against extremism in the region and said that this “presages a new chapter”.

However, it seems concrete discussions will come later, when both officials (Tillerson and Mattis) will visit Pakistan with their extended staff. Till then, this can be viewed as a good stepping stone and an incentive for Pakistan to work on stronger ties with the US. An effective relationship with both Afghanistan and US is necessary for regional stability.