ISLAMABAD      -         Pakistan and the United States are set to write a new chapter in friendship as top leaders of the two countries vowed to enhance partnership.

Yesterday, the White House said the trade ties between Pakistan and the US were set to witness a new record this year.

In a statement after Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump’s telephonic contact Thursday night, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said: “The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the United States-Pakistan trade relationship, which is on track to set a new record this year, as well as investment and people-to-people ties between our countries.”

According State Bank of Pakistan figures this year, Pakistan’s exports to US were recorded at $4032.998 million while the imports during the period stood at $2092.864 million.

Last month Pakistan brought the US and Afghan Taliban back to the talks’ table weeks after President Donald Trump called off the dialogue.

Government officials told The Nation that US was ‘positive’ towards Pakistan and there seemed a ‘change of heart’. “The talks between PM Imran Khan and President Trump promise good ties in the future,” said one official.

Another official said high-level visits will be exchanged between Pakistan and the US to enhance partnership.

A visiting Afghan Taliban delegation met US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in an ‘official meeting’ in Islamabad. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi later said the official talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US will resume soon.

This was followed by release of two professors held captive by the Afghan Taliban. FM Qureshi said Pakistan had played an important role for the release of Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.

Trump called PM Khan to acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts for the release of the professors – an American and the Australian.

President Trump had halted the talks, aimed at a plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, following the death of a US soldier and 11 others in a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.

After the successful US visits by PM Khan and army chief Qamar Javed General Bajwa this year, President Trump had accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan. When Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Trump at the White House on July 22, it was the first summit-level engagement between Pakistan and the US since 2015.  General Bajwa too held a meeting with the US President. PM Khan and Trump met again later on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

They held comprehensive discussions with a focus on building a broad-based and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the US and strengthening cooperation between the two countries to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity in South Asia.

Prime Minister Khan had briefed President Trump about his vision of socio-economic development of Pakistan. He said that “peaceful neighbourhood” was a priority of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

He stressed that peace and stability in the region would allow Pakistan to harness its rich human resource potential to generate growth and spur regional connectivity. President Trump had then appreciated Prime Minister Khan’s vision for peace in South Asia.

Since Imran Khan won the general election in 2018, he has called for “mutually beneficial” ties with America, while remaining an outspoken critic of US anti-terror tactics such as drone strikes.

After Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration had adopted a hard line against Pakistan, accusing it of supporting militants and misleading the US over the issue – the charges that Islamabad denies.

Trump began 2018 by promising on Twitter to end “foolish” aid to the country. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he said in a New Year tweet.

PM Khan hit back saying: “Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US “aid” was a miniscule $20 billion.”

However, a couple of months before that Twitter clash, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the prospect of a reset with the new government of PM Khan.

After the Thursday night’s phone call, an official statement in Islamabad said: “President Donald J Trump spoke with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. He thanked the Prime Minister for Pakistan’s support for the recovery of American hostage Kevin King and Australian hostage Timothy Weeks.”

It added: “President Trump hopes this positive development will contribute to furthering the peace process in Afghanistan. He also thanked the Prime Minister for Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating this positive outcome.”

The Prime Minister also apprised President Trump of the current situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, underscoring that over eight million people remained under siege for over 100 days.