ISLAMABAD - The trust level between Pakistan and the United States has gone up considerably amid the high-level contacts and meetings.

Yesterday, Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, called on Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood here to discuss the bilateral and regional issues.

The meeting came ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

PM Imran Khan flew to Davos earlier in the day.

The Prime Minister will hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders including President Trump. Several meetings are also scheduled with a wide range of corporate, business, technology and finance executives and representatives of international financial institutions.

After the meeting between Alice Wells and Sohail Mahmood, a foreign ministry statement said: “A range of bilateral issues, including political engagement and economic partnership, were discussed. It was emphasized that a strong trade and investment relationship was key to advancing the shared vision of the leadership of both the countries for a long term, broad-based and enduring partnership.”

The two sides also discussed the recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, said the statement.

Referring to the Foreign Minister’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States, and his telephone conversations with other counterparts, the Foreign Secretary underscored that Pakistan remained committed to supporting the efforts for de-escalation of tensions and promoting the prospects of a diplomatic way forward on the differences and disputes in the Middle East.

The Foreign Secretary highlighted the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Held Kashmir, intensified ceasefire violations from the Indian side, belligerent rhetoric of the Indian civil and military figures, and India’s aggressive measures along the Line of Control.

“The importance of the international community playing its role in peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was emphasized,” said the statement.

Officials at the foreign office told The Nation that the US acknowledged Pakistan’s role on Afghanistan peace and the talks between Washington and the Afghan Taliban.

Alice Wells, the officials said, also appreciated Pakistan’s role to defuse the Middle East tension as the US and Iran went close to a full-fledge war.

This week, Pakistan hosted talks with the US to review steps Islamabad has taken to choke funding sources to militant groups. The two sides also discussed ways to increase bilateral trade.

Alice Wells led her delegation in meetings with senior officials at the ministries of interior and commerce to formally begin her four-day visit amid warming relations.

Wells’ meetings in Islamabad come ahead of next month’s meeting of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, which monitors global money laundering and terror financing, where Pakistan’s efforts will be assessed.

The FATF meeting, hosted by China, will decide whether Islamabad remains on a so-called ‘gray list’ of countries lacking adequate mechanisms to counter terrorism funding.

An official statement said senior Interior Ministry officials had briefed the US delegation about ‘significant progress’ the government has made on ‘legislative and administrative matters’ to ensure compliance with an action plan FATF has outlined for Pakistan. Wells “applauded the progress,” the statement said. Pakistan has been urging the US to help Islamabad exit the gray list. 

In October, the FATF had asked Pakistan to address all issues identified in the action plan by February 2020. Failure to do so could lead to a downgrade to the agency’s blacklist, placing tough sanctions on the country’s banking system.

Last month, the Trump administration had announced it would soon resume International Military Education and Training programs for young Pakistani army officers. The Pakistani government welcomed the move as another step underscoring the growing partnership with the US. The IMET was a part of US security assistance for Pakistan worth some $ 2 billion that Trump suspended in January 2018.

Last week Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had visited Washington to hold talks with his American counterpart Mike Pompeo.

FM Qureshi termed the talks successful and hinted at further cooperation. He had earlier announced that Afghan Taliban – who engaged in talks with the US on Pakistan’s insistence – were ready to give up violence for the sake of peace. US top envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to visit Pakistan soon to finalise a peace deal.

The progress in traditionally turbulent US-Pakistan relations stemmed mainly from Islamabad’s cooperation in facilitating Washington’s peace talks with Taliban insurgents aimed at bringing an end to the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.