Given the new evolving realignments on the international chessboard, Pakistan has to strike a balance in the core relationship between United States and China to weather fresh geo-economic and geostrategic challenges.

A see-saw situation and policy of preferring China to US and vice versa will weigh heavy on future of country. Pakistan cannot afford any fumble as such laxity may let it plunge into a bottomless pit.

A clear-cut and resilient foreign policy is the order of day. It should unleash a strong message to both influential nations that keeping Pakistan interest first, US administration and Beijing administration will be treated on equal-footed basis.

Both the US and China have long and close friendship ties with Pakistan. On many occasions, both have their own specific dynamics of congeniality offering desired favors and assistances to Pakistan through thick and thin.

Embroiled into internal economic chaos, political anarchy, CPEC and Kashmir dispute, Pakistan needs both of them. Particularly on “Kashmir Mission”, US president Donald Trump had offered mediation in clear term. China has also put a complete weight behind the stance of Pakistan on Kashmir conflict.

It is true that international scenario is very complex. Clash of interests is a looming threat to world peace. Multilateralism and unilateralism are the two options that are to be opted to keep pace with the world powers. New strategic policies on South Asia, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran have included new considerations into the mix.

With close ties with America and simultaneous traditional and religious relations with Iran, Pakistan has to make each and every moment with utmost cautiousness. Currently, US imposed many economic sanctions after terminating 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018. Tensions are running high enveloping many countries especially European Union, major stakeholder in the deal.

Showing defiance, Iran has been pushing the EU to seek economic solace. Iran desires that its move to re-initiate enrichment of uranium may be undone if France and other European countries come up with oil compensatory package. This month France presented a proposal for a $15 billion line of credit, secured by future oil shipments, so as to heel American sanctions. But US secretary of state Pompeo Twitted that “We are confident that the UK, France and Germany — indeed, all civilized nations — will take decisive actions to stop Iran’s nuclear extortion.”

Unambiguously, Europeans want to keep engaging Iran to prevent utter debacle of deal contending that US president Trump botched by nullifying the agreement. Russia and China have also been making some ways to ease out Iran on the issue.

Gravity of situation deepened after Iran was suspected to have attacked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia some days back and when US President Donald Trump tweeted that America was “locked and loaded” to respond. Iran dismissed claims by the US that it was to blame and said it was ready for “fully-fledged war”.

From Pakistan’s point of view, the scenario is full of hazards. US, Saudia Arabia and Iran are all friends of Pakistan. All of them have their unique value and status. None of them can be given preference on one another. US remained strong ally to Pakistan. Over the past 15 years, Pakistan received roughly $15 billion in Coalition Support Funds meant to reimburse support for U.S. operations; roughly $4 billion in Foreign Military Financing funds used to purchase American equipment; about $1.4 billion in the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund to build Pakistan’s counterinsurgency capability; and approximately $52 million in International Military Education and Training funds.

In 1947, the United States was one of the first countries to recognize an independent Pakistan and to extend considerable assistance for the establishment of key institutions. With U.S. support, Pakistan was able to undertake many notable development projects, such as the Institute for Business Administration, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, the Indus Basin Project, Faisalabad Agricultural Institute, and a variety of other efforts that laid the path for Pakistan’s Green Revolution.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States was a major donor for the construction of the Mangla and Tarbela dams, which at the time of their completion accounted for 70 percent of the country’s power output. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the United States helped build the Guddu Power Station in Sindh and the Lahore University for Management Sciences, which is now considered to be one of the nation’s top business schools.

More recently, U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan has delivered real results on issues of greatest importance to all Pakistanis: energy, economic growth, stability, education, and health. In addition, when natural or manmade disasters threaten Pakistan, the United States has been quick to respond. Over the past decade, the United States, through USAID, has given Pakistan nearly $7.7 billion of funding. Pakistan remains one of America’s largest recipients of foreign assistance, a sign of our long-term partnership and commitment.

However, Pakistan claims to have suffered over 70,000 Pakistani casualties, and over $150 billion lost to the economy being partner to US in terror war so far.

With the inception of CPEC, an impression gained currency that Pakistan does not need America with as much intensity as it needed in the past. According to various experts neither the US was not taken into confidence on CPEC deal nor was facilitated to have partnership on CPEC projects. This led to strained relations once again. Previously, May 2 incident of Osama Bin Laden, flurry of drone attacks, NATO 2011 attack at Salala Check post had played their role to mar their ties.

However, damaged relations are again on the path of recovery. Reinstatement of military aid and call for mediation on Kashmir dispute by US president Donald Trump have helped heal the bruises in bilateral relationship. It is high time to capitalize the new pleasant turn in the relationship with the US.

At the same time China is time-tested friend. On Kashmir issue, it stands by Pakistan always. Sino-Pak diplomatic ties were established in 1950, boundary issues resolved in 1963, military assistance began in 1966, a strategic alliance was formed in 1972, and economic co-operation began in 1979. China has become Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner. China has signed two Free Trade Agreements with Pakistan. More than $ 50 billion mega project of CPEC, eventually, is vote of China’s s confidence on Pakistan.

It is matter of concern that from different quarters voices are circulating that CPEC may be slowing down. These impressions have been taking a heavy toll on Sino-Pak trust altitude and may be bothering Chinese officials. CPEC is a key to cure Pakistan ailing economy. We should not let it go waste at any cost.

Under these perilous circumstances, a preferred choice is to set up a Foreign Affairs Task Force to tune in partnership with US and China before it is too late. This Task Force should be comprising foreign affairs experts, jurists and army personnel headed by Foreign Minister. If we succeed in innovating diplomatic strategies with US and China, Pakistan will definitely come in a strong position to safeguard its interests on both internal and external affairs.