Pakistan may find its US and China ties a difficult balancing act

With US President Joe Biden reversing several measures put in place by the former Donald Trump administration within hours of taking charge of the White House, Pakistan is hoping to reset its equation with Washington

Jan 27, 2021
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With US President Joe Biden reversing several measures put in place by the former Donald Trump administration within hours of taking charge of the White House, Pakistan is hoping to reset its equation with Washington. According to Dawn, the Pakistan based newspaper, Islamabad has already initiated the process of re-charting "the contours of the bilateral ties with the US without compromising the future of CPEC" and the close relations it shared with China. But analysts said that for Pakistan, which has now completely aligned with China, the balancing act could be difficult.

Islamabad, with a battered economy, is desperately looking to garner support from various countries especially the US after the change of guard.

Islamabad sees Biden, who served as Vice President in the Barack Obama administration, is being pro-Pakistan.

In fact, in 2008, Biden, who had been instrumental in facilitating non-military aid of $1.5 billion to Pakistan, was awarded the second-highest civilian honor, 'Hilal-e-Pakistan' by Islamabad.

"This is a critical juncture in the history of diplomacy in the country. Confronted with health and economic crises, we need all the help we can muster from our global partners in the West and the East. We are committed to CPEC and also wish to revive the IMF programme suspended early last year. To this end, we hope for a trust-based open relationship with both the United States and China," Dawn quoted a senior diplomat as saying.

But geopolitics have changed

An analyst pointed out that the geopolitical dimensions have changed considerably in the last five years and it may not be easy for Pakistan to get the support its looking for.

Trump too has been considered pro-Pakistan from time to time. He has often referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as a "close friend". That apart now as Pakistan gets closer to China the political equations have changed, the analyst said.

While former President Barack Obama had shown his keenness to strike a chord with Pakistan and in 2009, even ratified an aid package of $7.5 billion for Pakistan which was to be directed over five years, the German international broadcaster DW or Deutsche Welle noted that the Obama presidency turned out to be much worse for Islamabad that the George Bush administration.

"For Pakistan, Obama's presidency has been much worse than Bush's. US-Pakistani ties have been at their nadir since May 2011, when American Special Forces unilaterally raided a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad and killed former Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden, who had been hiding in the garrison town for at least six years. Although the Pakistani government hailed the assassination of bin Laden, it also expressed its displeasure over the violation of its territorial sovereignty by US forces," DW observed when the US' former President was seeking re-election for a second term.

Dawn quoting an economist said that Pakistan may have to choose between the US and China as a strategic partner. "Our strategy to ride multiple boats rowing in different directions misfired. We lost credibility and ended up in perfect isolation. There is no sense fooling ourselves. We shoot ourselves in the foot all the time. I don't see Pakistan benefitting from Biden's presidency," an economist told the newspaper.

Pakistan's recent tensions with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Relations between Pakistan and traditional allies including Saudi Arabia and UAE among others have also started to show cracks as the Khan government has been trying to create a parallel Islamic country-block with Turkey. Last year, Pakistan had to repay part of the loan to Saudi Arabia for which it had to borrow from China. There are reports that UAE could also seek repayment of the $3 billion financial assistance package to Pakistan.

As Pakistan's economy took a hit with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Khan is looking to mortgage Islamabad's biggest park and get a loan of around Rs 500 billion.

(Under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

(IANS)

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