ISLAMABAD - Pakistani diplomats aim to defuse tension with the United States and the government has told them it does not want to lose the US, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said that Pakistan wanted the US to “accept its mistake” but was not aiming to severe the ties further. “Pakistan had been lodging protest with the US but the government is cautious that the things do not get out of hands,” one official told The Nation.

He added: “Pakistan is hoping that September will bring some good news on Pak-US ties. We are working to remove the misunderstandings.”

Pakistan and the US have been engaged in a war of words ever since President Donald Trump pointed finger at Islamabad’s role in the war on terror.  On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed a resolution condemning Trump’s accusations denouncing them as “hostile” and “threatening.”

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said in the National Assembly the government had postponed exchange of visits between Pakistan and the US.

He said closing off “ground and air lines of communication through Pakistan” would also be considered.

Over the weekend, Pakistan postponed a visit by US acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to discuss Washington’s new Afghan policy.  Lisa Curtis, who heads the South Asia policy wing at the National Security Council of the White House, was also scheduled to visit with Wells this week.

A meeting of Foreign Minister Asif with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also cancelled.  Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will however; fly to the US next month to address the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 or 23.

Foreign Minister Asif will accompany the premier to the UNGA.  The speech of the premier has been prepared by the foreign ministry.

Officials said before Prime Minister Abbasi’s visit to the US, Pakistan might not engage in open talks with Washington.

After Trump’s attack, Pakistan hit back and asserted Pakistan’s position on the war against terrorism. Prime Minister Abbasi, the National Security Committee (NSC), Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the foreign ministry criticised the US for not acknowledging Pakistan’s sacrifices and instead casting doubts on Pakistan’s role.

Despite the war of words, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan had not parted ways with the US.

The US also cannot afford to lose Pakistan due to its strategic importance.

A US State Department spokesperson on Wednesday was quoted as saying that the Trump administration valued its relationship and partnership with Pakistan.

“We continue to value our partnership with Pakistan and look forward to scheduling meetings at a mutually convenient time,” the spokesperson said.

Another official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that diplomats were engaged in back-channel talks to defuse the tension, while the civil and military leadership would keep pressure on Washington on Trump’s controversial speech.

“The visits of the US officials to Pakistan and vice versa are being rescheduled. The ties should improve in September. We are trying to remove the misunderstandings,” he said.

The official said that talks with other countries including Russia were on to pressurise the US. “Hopefully, the US will acknowledge our sacrifices in the coming days to end the deadlock,” he added.  Former ambassador Fauzia Nasreen said Pakistan, as a nation, had responded well to Trump’s statement. 

“Donald Trump is behaving like a cowboy. He should be more sensible. The US needs Pakistan and we too have interests with the US,” she said.

Nasreen said the civil and military leadership had given a joint response to Trump, which had proved “we are united on national issues.”

She said the US should acknowledge Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and “we have lost thousands of lives in the campaign.”