Last week, Pakistan and the US sparred over whether terror was discussed in the US's first call to the new PM. Yesterday, the Pakistan foreign office, referring to the spat, said, "we want this episode to end''. Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf may be toning down its anti-US rhetoric as it stares in the face of realpolitik

NEW DELHI: Pakistan's new Imran Khan government is bending backwards to put behind it its first spat with the US over whether terrorism was discussed or not in the US administration's first chat with Pakistan's new premier last week.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party is believed to be toning down its usual anti-US rhetoric as it stares in the face of realpolitik - it's in serious economic trouble and needs US and International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid - now that it's actually in power. The reasons it's backing down from the spat could be two-fold, reported Pakistani media.

One, Islamabad wants the stopover next week of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to be somewhat productive after over a year of bitter recriminations between the two countries which saw US President Donald Trump drastically slash the more than $1 billion a year in aid it gives Pakistan, saying, "no more", reported Dawn.

Two, the US actually went ahead and provided Pakistan of the recording of the talk between Pompeo and Khan and that showed the game was up. Pompeo did discuss the need for Pakistan to act on terror.

"We would want this episode to end. The foreign minister has already commented in detail. Politically, we need to move on," said the Pakistan foreign office spokesman Muhammad Faisal on Thursday. He had used similar words earlier in the week too, reported The News International.

A senior Pakistani diplomat, in a conversation with Dawn, said that it would be a mistake to think that Pompeo is coming on a goodwill trip. The Americans, he said, are using the rationale that they are here to meet the new government in Islamabad, "but we must not", he said, ""expect that our relationship will drastically improve."

Even on Pompeo's visit, scheduled for September 5, the issue of Pakistan's response - or its lack thereof - will indeed be discussed, reported Dawn yesterday.

The US military chief General Joseph F. Dunford will accompany the top US diplomat when he visits Islamabad next week and the need to fight terrorists would be "the primary part" of their discussions with Pakistani leaders, said US Defence Secretary James Mattis earlier this week.

Mattis's emphasis on the need to fight terrorists reignites the controversy stirred last week after Pompeo's call to Khan.

Last Thursday Pompeo spoke to Khan. After the call, the two countries disagreed about whether terrorism was discussed or not in that call. Pakistan said it wasn't and said the US should "correct" its 'readout' of the call.

When asked at a press conference later in the day whether the US was sure terror was discussed, a US state department spokeswoman firmly said Washington stands by its earlier statement.

What happened was this: First, the US state department issued a 'readout' of what was discussed between Khan and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. The US readout said Pompeo raised the issue of Islamabad taking "decisive action" on terrorists operating in Pakistan.

"Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process," said US state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on the department website.

"Wrong", said Pakistan's foreign office.

"Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by US State Dept on today's phone call between PM Khan & Sec Pompeo. There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This shd be immediately corrected," tweeted Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal.

Later on Thursday, at a daily press briefing the US state department holds, Nauert was asked about whether the US would "correct" its readout on the Khan-Pompeo conversation.

"We stand by our readout. I don't necessarily read an entire readout, word-for-word, for you here at the podium," said Nauert to a media question.

Then she was asked how the Pakistanis could have got it so wrong if the US says it did indeed discus terror.

"I'm not going to speculate, okay...And I can't speak on their behalf. I can only say we stand by our readout. They're an important partner. The secretary had a good call with the new prime minister and we look forward to having a good relationship with them in the future," said Nauert.

And then she reiterated, "We stand by our readout".