Pakistan has welcomed President Bush's decision to name the nation a major non-NATO ally of the United States. Top government officials say the move is an acknowledgment of Pakistan's "positive role" in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Pakistani officials say the decision will strengthen both political and military ties between the two countries and will make it easier for Pakistan to acquire defense equipment from the United States.

Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Pakistani Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, says the designation of Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally shows Washington wants to establish a long-term relationship with Islamabad.

"This implies the recognition by the United States of America of Pakistan's role as a pivotal player in the campaign against terrorism after 9/11, and also that Pakistan's role is positive and that this role is now recognized in the United States and internationally as well," he said.

Mr. Hussain says that as a major non-NATO ally, Pakistan will be able to modernize its military with U.S. technology, equipment, and training techniques. He says it also will contribute to political developments in South Asia, particularly on efforts to improve relations between Pakistan and India.

"So over all I would think it is very positive for Pakistan's national security and it is also very positive for the regional stability," he said.

Several other countries, including Australia, Bahrain, Israel, South Korea, and Morocco, enjoy the status of major non-NATO allies of the United States.

During 1990's Pakistan remained under U.S. economic and military sanctions for secretly developing nuclear weapons and then testing nuclear devices in 1998. But most of those sanctions were lifted after Pakistan joined the United States to punish the terror groups responsible for the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

The alleged mastermind of the terror strikes against the United States, Osama bin Laden, and other senior members of his al-Qaida terror group are believed to be hiding somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Analysts say Pakistan's help is needed to catch these fugitives.