WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday announced tens of millions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, for roads and power plants, as the Obama Administration tries to forge a new relationship with a major ally in the fight against terrorism.
The announcements came as two days of high level talks wrapped up in Washington.
Part of the $40-million in road aid will go to the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley, along the country's northwest frontier with Afghanistan. The area was hit hard by a Pakistan army offensive last year to push the Taliban out, forcing many residents from their homes.
The U.S. will also sign an agreement Thursday to provide $51-million to upgrade three thermal power plants in Pakistan.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew called the road aid a tangible sign of the long-term partnership with Pakistan.
"We are pleased to work with the government of Pakistan to build roads and improve the security and livelihoods of the people of Pakistan," Lew said.
When Secretary of State Clinton launched the talks Wednesday she said the U.S. hoped to dispel what she called mistrust and misunderstandings in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Pakistan Finance Minister, Salman Siddique, who attended the State Department signing ceremony with Lew, predicted the U.S. assistance would help change attitudes toward the U.S.
Public opinion in Pakistan toward the United States is highly negative. A Pew Research Center poll last year found 64-percent of Pakistanis considered the United States an enemy.
"I think it is time that the image of the United States in the eyes of the people of Pakistan improve and it can only do so through direct intervention," Saddique said. "And I don't think the people have any qualms on looking towards American help and American support in rebuilding their lives which are affected by the war on terror and going forward toward a more strategic relationship even in times of peace."
Last year, publicity about a $7.5-Billion dollar U.S. non-military aid package to Pakistan set off an uproar, with members of Parliament there claiming the assistance showed U.S. interference. It took weeks of U.S. reassurance to quiet that outcry.
Energy assistance will be a key element of U.S. aid, but the U.S. appears to have sidestepped Pakistan's request to develop of civilian nuclear trade agreement, similar to thwat the U.S. negotiated with India in 2008.
A joint statement released at the end of the talks included both strong U.S. praise for Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism and what both sides expect in the future.
Secretary Clinton paid tribute to the courage and resolve of the people of Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and militancy. Both sides acknowledged the common threat that terrorism and extremism posed to global, regional and local security," the communiqué said.
"Pakistan expressed its appreciation for U.S. security assistance. Both governments committed to redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism and to protect the common ideals and shared values of democracy, tolerance, openness and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights," the communiqué added.
Outside analysts said the talks this week included both symbolism and substance. Lisa Curtis, an expert on Pakistan at the Heritage Foundation, said the talks were symbolically important because they showed U.S. respect and US interest in upgrading the relationship with Pakistan.
"This was a good opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate its long term interest in Pakistan and go beyond terrorism to a wide range of others issues, such as water, energy, and trade," Curtis told CNN.
She said there still remained gaps in how the two countries view various challenges including the war in Afghanistan,which Pakistan view as less important than their long tense rivalry with India.
"The U.S.-Pakistan relationship remains unresolved. This was an opportunity to close gaps and bring the two countries into greater alignment on the issues," Curtis said.
The next round of talks will be held in coming months in Afghanistan and Secretary Clinton already has promised to lead the U.S. delegation.
- From CNN Senior Producer Charley Keyes