Amidst escalating tensions between China and the United States, Pakistan has found itself in a tough spot. While the Islamic Republic has been an all-weather friend of China and also a negotiator in talks with the Taliban on behalf of the US, the Pakistani establishment is increasingly finding it difficult to continue with its balancing act.
In the recently concluded Quad summit meeting, the US sought to contain the growing influence of China by strengthening ties with Japan, India, and Australia. Following the virtual meeting, the US diplomatic and military chief visited India, South Korea and Australia to reaffirm mutual cooperation and bilateral relationships. Pakistan finds itself increasingly cornered by the States in two decades since the onset of the Afghanistan war.
With the Afghan conflict reaching its conclusion and shifting geopolitical commitments of the United States, Pakistan is pondering over the possibility of jumping the anti-China bandwagon and renewing its estranged relations. However, such a move can distance it from China, which has been building massive infrastructure in the cash-strapped country of Pakistan. The Islamic Republic is under the ‘Chinese debt trap’ and is unlikely to come out of it anytime soon.
Given that Pakistan is the largest importer of weapons from China, it has become difficult for the country to develop non-terrorism related geopolitical ties with the States. To add salt to the wound, it cannot be seen being ‘overtly pro-China’. Else, it might risk losing economic assistance or bailout packages from the United States or the US-backed International Monetary Fund.
IMF has called for strict scrutiny of CPEC, given its lack of transparency. This has further stressed ties between China and Pakistan. It remains a challenge for the Pakistani government and its baggage of Army establishment to steer past this inconvenient diplomatic situation. “As Biden looks to build an alliance of “likeminded” democracies against authoritarian China, Islamabad won’t easily shift the focus of Pakistan-US relations from security to economics,” the report concluded.
Deteriorating US-China relations
Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had a tough time during a meeting with Chinese diplomats Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage, Alaska where US officials received an astonishing dressing down from their Chinese counterparts.
Wang also told the US delegation that they are not in a position to speak to China from a position of strength. Blinken said during his remarks, laying emphasis on the “rules based international order” that the two countries will discuss the USA’s “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, and economic coercion toward our allies.”
“Each of these actions threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” he added.Yang, on his part, mocked the proponent of the “rules based international order”, which truth be told, is a thinly veiled euphemism for a world based on American hegemony.