WASHINGTON: In a document issued after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States, the White House has acknowledged improvement in a key area of US concern: the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

“Pakistan is engaged with the international community on nuclear safety and security issues and is working to ensure its strategic export controls are in line with international standards,” says the document.

“Pakistan is a state party to both the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and is a partner in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,” the White House notes.

“Pakistan is an active participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process and works closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Office of Nuclear Security to promote best security practices,” it adds.

“Through our joint security, strategic stability, and non-proliferation dialogue, we have shared views on non-proliferation challenges, as well as on the multilateral regimes on chemical and biological weapons, export controls, and the importance of regional stability and security,” the White House says.

The safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has been a major issue in the United States ever since the country tested its devices in 1998. US lawmakers, media and think-tanks often claim that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe and can fall into the hands of militants if the security situation there continues to deteriorate.

During a visit to Washington earlier this month, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar raised this issue at various forums, assuring Americans that the weapons were “in safe hands and there’s absolutely no possibility of militants having access to them”.

Although the US officials have supported Pakistan’s position in the past as well, mentioning it in a White House document further strengthens Islamabad’s case.

The White House document also acknowledges that Pakistan has “taken positive steps” over the past year to increase its controls and interdiction of the illicit supply of the materials used to produce improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

During the last two years, when relations between the two countries deteriorated rapidly, the Americans regularly complained that Pakistan was allowing militants to smuggle IED-making material into Afghanistan, which was then used to kill US soldiers deployed there.

Since the IEDs killed scores of US soldiers, the issue became a major irritant in bilateral relations. US lawmakers would often urge the administration to stop aid to Pakistan over this issue.

The US acknowledgement that Pakistan had taken “positive steps” for removing this threat also removes this major hurdle in the restoration of a key partnership in the war against terror.

The White House document underlines the significance of US-Pakistan defence and counter-terrorism cooperation as well, noting that the two countries were working jointly to “bring about the defeat of core Al Qaeda and the extremist groups” that threaten the security of both nations and the region. With US help, Pakistan has significantly increased the effectiveness of its operations against militant groups, the document says.

Since 2009, the United States has trained nearly 730 members of the Pakistan Army, air force, and navy. The United States and Pakistan also conduct military staff exchanges and joint training exercises each year to enhance coordination and interoperability between our militaries.