NEW YORK - Changing geopolitical dynamics and the shift of Washington’s focus from Pakistan to India, which the US is viewing as counterweight to China, has encouraged Moscow and Islamabad that stood in a tough opposition to each other in the 1980’s over Afghanistan, “to mend fences”, The Wall Street Journal said in an article published on Friday.

Islamabad has been weighing its strategic options amid rising tension with Washington, which views Pakistan as an unreliable ally in combating Islamist militants in the region, including neighbouring Afghanistan.

“On Thursday, Pakistan said it would buy four Russian Mi-35 attack helicopters for an undisclosed price, after a spate of high-level visits between the two countries,” the newspaper said, adding that a $ 2 billion natural-gas pipeline project was also in the works.

It recalled that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended a summit conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Russian city of Ufa at the beginning of last month, said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin he wanted a multidimensional relationship with Russia, which would encompass defence, trade and the energy sector.

WSJ quoted a former senior Pakistani diplomat saying Pakistan had decided it was no longer an American client state. “Pakistan has decided that although America will remain important, it must have other alternatives,” said the diplomat, Zafar Hilaly.

The 1,100 kilometers-long pipeline that will be built by the Russian government-owned amalgamation Rostec is the most graphic symbol of the rising new relationship between Pakistan and Russia, the article said. The pipeline will carry imported natural gas from Karachi to Lahore, a major city in the country’s east, thus helping Pakistan cope with the current energy shortages.

The new pipeline is to be completed by 2018. It will be able to carry 2 billion cubic feet of gas a day. This is equivalent to about a half of Pakistan’s current gas production from its domestic fields.

The pipeline would carry imported natural gas from the port city of Karachi to Lahore in the east, helping the country deal with crippling energy shortages. Rostec, run by a close friend of Mr. Putin’s, would finance, own and operate the pipeline for 25 years.

“It’s very important for Russia from a geopolitical point of view. Russia is trying to enter this market and compete with China and the U.S.,” said Vladimir Sotnikov, senior research associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Eastern Studies.

Despite Islamabad’s outreach to Russia, experts said it is likely to seek continued close ties to the U.S., which is Pakistan’s biggest supplier of military aid and equipment. Since 2002, the U.S. has provided Pakistan with $31 billion in civilian and military aid and reimbursements, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Pakistan recently signed a nearly $1 billion deal to purchase 15 American AH-1Z Viper helicopters, as well as 1,000 Hellfire missiles and other equipment.

Both Russia and China are concerned about protecting their southern underbellies against the export of extremism and instability from Pakistan and Afghanistan, by investing there to promote economic development.

Islamabad has taken action against Pakistani-based Islamist militants from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region over the past year. Analysts also say Beijing’s influence helped prod Pakistan into promoting peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Earlier this year, China and Pakistan, long close allies, announced plans for a massive, Chinese-funded infrastructure-building program. China has also pledged to fund the construction of a gas pipeline to connect Iran and Pakistan.

“The Russian pipeline would represent Moscow’s first major project in Pakistan since the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union helped build a steel mill in Karachi during a brief warming of relations that followed the election of a left-leaning leader in Islamabad,” the WSJ said. “The two countries are now discussing ways that Russia can upgrade the mill, Pakistani officials said.”

Mobin Saulat, managing director of Inter State Gas Systems, a Pakistani government corporation that oversees gas import projects, said the new pipeline should be completed by 2018. It would be able to carry 2 billion cubic feet of gas a day, equivalent to about half of Pakistan’s current gas production from its domestic fields.

According to the WSJ, Rostec officials say the amalgamation will raise the funds needed to the pipeline project. The US imposed financial sanctions on Rostec after Russia’s interventions in Ukraine, effectively cutting it off from US-dollar financing.