The US and Pakistani governments seem to be heading for a divorce full of recriminations. So great are the divergent objectives and lack of trust between them that Pakistan seems to be contemplating moving out of Americas orbit altogether and into Chinas embrace. Americas decision - without informing Pakistan or seeking its help - to send a hit-team deep inside Pakistani territory to kill Osama bin Laden may have proved to be the last straw. Pakistans leaders are furious. Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani declared that any future action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan would lead to a complete review of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States. Added to this, Pakistans Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed fulsome praise for China on a visit to Beijing in May. China, he said, was a source of inspiration for the Pakistani people, while Chinese premier Wen Jiabao declared that China and Pakistan will remain for ever good neighbours, good friends, good partners and good brothers. As well as cooperating in the military, banking, civil nuclear and other fields, Pakistan wants China to build a naval base and maintain a regular naval presence at the port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, in Balochistan province. This has alarmed the United States, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Worried at Pakistans drift away from Washington, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton hurried to Pakistan for a few hours on May 27 in an attempt to patch things up - but apparently with little success. This is because the row over the killing of ben Laden is only the latest chapter in a long narrative of mutual misperceptions. CIA missile attacks by unmanned drones against alleged 'terrorist targets inside Pakistan invariably end up killing civilians, and arousing furious anti-American sentiment. The Pakistan parliament has denounced these strikes as a violation of Pakistans sovereignty and demanded a permanent halt to them. Some parliamentary members warned that Pakistan could cut supply lines to US forces in Afghanistan if drone attacks continued. The extent of hostility towards America was on display following an incident on January 27 when Raymond A Davis, a covert CIA officer, shot and killed two Pakistanis in a crowded street in Lahore. Pakistani popular opinion wanted him hanged. It was only with great difficulty that the US managed to secure his release. But the idea took root in Pakistan that the United States was deploying a secret army against the militants in the country. The Pakistan Army has demanded that the number of American military personnel in the country be reduced. Relations between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI), headed by Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, are said to be tense. At the heart of the US-Pakistani estrangement lies a profound disagreement about everything to do with Afghanistan, especially how to deal with radical factions, such as the Taliban. Not content with having eliminated bin Laden, the United States wants to hunt down and destroy any remnants of Al-Qaeda and other militant groups, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan and even in places further a field like Yemen. Obsessed with the danger of terrorist violence, the US has been unwilling to recognise that Arab and Muslim hostility to the United States springs mainly from its own catastrophic wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan itself, with their heavy toll of civilian casualties, and from its blind support for Israel. Suspecting Pakistan of complicity with Muslim radicals, the US insists that it should join in Americas own anti-terrorist campaigns. It would like Pakistan to break relations with Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban; with the Jalaluddin Haqqani network (now run by Jalaluddins sons, Sirajuddin and Badruddin); and with the Lashkar-e-Taiba - a militant group considered responsible for the devastating Mumbai attack of 2008. Pakistan is determined to exercise a degree of control over Afghanistan for two reasons. First, to prevent the realisation of the Pashtun dream of a 'Greater Pakhtunistan astride the Durand Line, since this would mean the loss of Pakistans Pashtun-inhabited Khayber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The fact that Afghanistan still refuses to recognise the validity of the Durand Line - which divides the Pashtuns - keeps such Pakistani fears alive. Rather than pressing Pakistan to sever its ties with militant groups, the United States would be better advised to quieten Pakistani concerns by putting pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir dispute. The second reason why Pakistan is determined to keep Afghanistan within its own orbit is to prevent it falling under Indias influence, as this would result in Pakistan being encircled. Islamabad sees Afghanistan as its strategic depth. The US-Pakistani disagreement over Afghanistan serves to reinforce a deep-seated Pakistani suspicion that America is not a faithful partner but one which abandons its allies once they cease to be useful. Throughout the 1980s, the United States - with help from Pakistan and funding from Saudi Arabia - recruited, armed and trained tens of thousands of volunteers to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. But once the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, the US lost interest in these fighters. Finance for them was cut off. They were abandoned to their fate. Many were not wanted in their home countries. Osama bin Laden recruited them into Al-Qaeda. The paradox is that Pakistan has in recent years been pressured to do Americas bidding in making war on militant groups - in its own country if not in Afghanistan - and has paid dearly for it. Not only have military operations against these militants been extremely costly for Pakistan in men and treasure, but they have also provoked lethal retaliation from groups such as Tahrik-e-Taliban in the form of suicide bombings and other attacks. On May 22, a militant team raided Pakistans Mehran Naval Station in the heart of Karachi, the countrys economic capital, killing 12 security officers and destroying two high-tech Lockheed Martin maritime surveillance aircraft. The militants said the raid was to avenge bin Ladens killing. Minister of Interior Rehman Malik concluded that the country was in a state of war. Pakistan thus finds itself under pressure from the United States to fight the militants, and under attack from the militants for waging Americas war for it. The United States gives Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, $3bn in annual aid, rather less than it gives to Israel, with a population of 7 million. Little wonder that some leading Pakistanis have come to think that their country would be better off without the exorbitant encumbrance of this American connection. Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East. Middle East Online