ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States (US) are hoping to trust each other after a verbal war that threatened to end the reluctant alliance forever.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the two nations were holding each other’s hand cautiously due to the below par confidence level.

“The problem with both the countries is that they can’t live without each other and can’t trust each other. They are finding a way out to use one another and keep moving,” a senior official, privy to Pak-US relations, said.

He said the Pak-US ties normally hang over a media statement. “If the US praises Pakistan, we start celebrating and if they say something unpleasant, we start to mourn. There is a dearth of trust despite decades of partnership,” he said.

Last week, the interagency US delegation — led by Lisa Curtis, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South Asia — visited Islamabad to hold talks before the higher level dialogue in the coming days.

The US delegation included Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence David Helvey and other senior officials from Departments of State, Defence and the US embassy in Islamabad.

The foreign ministry said in its statement that the two sides “reviewed the State of play in the relationship in the wake of the US strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia and agreed to continue discussions on all matters of mutual interest”.

After the US delegation’s visit, Pakistan is now expecting a top aide to US President Donald Trump — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis — in the coming days to discuss the war on terror and the level of cooperation between the two uneasy allies.

However, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that he could not confirm who will be coming from the US “but it was agreed that both sides will remain engaged at all levels.”

He said that the US delegation’s visit to Pakistan was a follow-up to the meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence in New York last month.

Zakaria said that the visit was constructive and fruitful. “The discussions focused on of bilateral relations in diverse fields, regional security situation including Afghanistan and Pak-US cooperation in the regional context. Terrorism is a common enemy; all countries need to work together and cooperate with each other to eradicate this menace,” he maintained.

The Pak-US trust level suddenly improved after Pakistani forces recovered an American-Canadian couple last week. President Donald Trump, who had threatened to sever ties with Pakistan only a few weeks earlier, praised the release of the American family long held by Taliban, calling it a ‘positive moment’ for Pak-US relations.

Another official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was making efforts to improve the trust level with the US for a better working relationship.

“We can call these two countries reluctant allies but they have to join hands to achieve the goals. Pakistan needs the US to eliminate terrorism completely, and they need us for their Afghanistan mission. For the time being the two countries are coming closer but how close can they get is anybody’s guess,” he said.

Citing the recent contacts, the official said, there is little chance of a break in ties. “Hopefully, we are moving forward. The US is influenced by India so it may not get too close but the working relationship is always on,” he added.

Last week, Prime Minister Abbasi told his cabinet members that Pakistan will hold the upcoming talks with the US on an ‘equality basis’.

Abbasi had met Trump and other US leaders and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month which helped break the ice. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif visited Washington again this month for meetings with Rex Tillerson and other officials.

Amid the improving Pak-US ties, Foreign Minister Asif has emerged as an unexpected shrewd diplomat.

Sources said that his front-foot play in the United States during his recent visit won many hearts in the military also. The diplomats at the foreign ministry were already all praise for him.

 “People were not expecting that much from him. He proved them all wrong and surprised everybody,” said a diplomat here.

Last week, Asif had asked the US to identify the terrorists’ hideouts in Pakistan where Islamabad was not taking action. The foreign minister had said that Washington should pinpoint the hideouts to facilitate action to eliminate them.

In the US this month, Asif appeared unwavering from the statements issued by the US’ leadership and lashed out at “hollow allegations about Pakistan harboring terrorists as not acceptable”.

Defense analyst Brig (retd) Aftab Afzal said Donald Trump needed to review his new South Asian policy. “Pakistan had rejected his new policy and the US has to give weight to our demands. They (the US) cannot bring in India in Afghanistan,” he said.

He said Pakistan and the US agencies had been sharing intelligence along the border which also led to the recovery of the abducted American-Canadian couple. “Good ties between these two countries are in the interest of the two nations,” he said.

Political analyst Dr Farhat Haq said that Pakistan has announced to reduce its dependency on the US which will improve its standing in the world.

“Pakistan should come out of the US shadow and live like a truly independent country. Relationship with the US should not be submissive, it should be like a sovereign state. Khawaja Asif is doing well as the foreign minister,” she said.