A challenge to keep all world powers happy

ISLAMABAD   –   Pakistan faces a challenge to keep all world powers happy as it struggles to balance ties among the United States, China and Russia.

For Islamabad, relationship with China is unbreakable and friendship with the US is a necessity. Close cooperation with Russia is Pakistan’s ambition.

Even before flying to the US, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had made it clear that Pakistan wanted good ties with the US but not at the cost of China. He did not touch Russia too much sensing Washington’s sensitivity towards Moscow.

Islamabad needs the US backing for its financial agreements with the International Monetary Fund and cooperation with the key European countries that always follow the US on major international decisions. The wealthy Arab countries too hardly go against the US.

China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan and continues to pour in more money in the development sector under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The US is not happy with Pakistan for its closeness with China and has on several occasions expressed its annoyance openly.

To add to this, former prime minister visited Russia just hours before Russia invaded Ukraine. Imran Khan claimed his visit had nothing to do with the Ukraine issue and he was actually in Moscow to negotiate bilateral cooperation but the timing of the trip and the sitting arrangement in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin raised eyebrows in Washington.

FM Bilawal is not expected to accept a single word against China but could compromise on Russia with whom the friendship is still an ambition. Pleasing all the three powers will be an uphill task.

US’ help to overcome the financial crises can be readily available – keeping in view its influence on the International Monetary Fund – and Pakistan can go slow on Russia to achieve its goals.

FM Bilawal has been invited to participate in the “Global Food Security” meeting on May 18.

Last week, Bilawal received a telephone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and both expressed the desire to strengthen the “mutually-beneficial Pakistan-US bilateral relations.”

Exchanging views on various aspects of Pakistan-US relations, the FM underscored that Pakistan and the US had a longstanding broad-based relationship.

Bilawal’s US visit is the first high-level interaction between the two countries amid former PM Imran Khan’s anti-American narrative. Imran Khan has also blamed Washington for toppling his government. The US has denied the allegations.

Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi maintained that Washington wanted to improve its bilateral relations with Pakistan due to a number of reasons.

“The US wants to contain China and for this purpose it is increasing engagements with regional countries. The relations of all countries are based on national interests. Islamabad and Washington have some differences on certain issues. It is good that ties between the two countries are improving,” he remarked.

Mushtaq Ahmed Mehar, another former Ambassador, said China was a country that invested in Pakistan at a crucial time when other countries were hesitant to invest here due to terrorism.

“The road infrastructure in the country has improved. Moreover, the CPEC project will enable Pakistan to boost its industrial sector as well. Now China is willing to invest in the agriculture and IT (Information Technology) sectors in Pakistan that will help to improve the production,” he mentioned.

He underlined that Pakistan-China relations were not only limited to economic development of both the countries. “Rather, China is unconditionally offering all the regional countries to become part of economic projects under its Belt and Road Initiative. Sooner or later, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will become the most effective and influential organisation in the world,” he added.

The analysts believed friendship with Russia was important but Pakistan can afford to move slowly on this subject as there was no visible benefit in the near future from Moscow.

It will be a big test for FM Bilawal to create a balance between the three powers at a time when Pakistan cannot afford any misunderstandings.

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