Pakistan and the US have had a chequered history, more so than any other two nations in recent times. And why shouldn’t they? The two great boons of brotherly feeling were brought about by extreme necessity – which required both sides to swallow some bitter pills – while the differences are embedded, and peacetime co-operation not lucrative enough. When the second Afghan adventure was drawing to its close, a realignment of interests was always on the cards, now the cards are on the table.

President Obama’s stellar trip to India is being mirrored by a low-key, yet equally significant trip to China by COAS General Raheel Sharif, where he met with his Chinese counterpart amongst other top officials. The timing of the two trips, coupled with the superlatives being used during both proceedings leave little to the imagination; one can almost hear the axis of alliance shifting in the subcontinent. President Obama is playing for the gallery, mildly chiding Pakistan and praising Indian potential. This is not all words, he cleared legal roadblocks in the 2008 US-India nuclear deal, ensuring it can progress as well as setting the stage for future increase in bilateral trade, which currently stands at $100 Billion. In India, the US sees a vast market it can tap into, as well as a priceless counterweight to China, whose aggressive growth is troubling Washington to no end. For the moment, Pakistan is surplus to requirements; with the Afghan war over, Pakistan’s utility is limited. Previous commitments and cooperation towards Afghan security will mean that a working relationship will exist, yet no one will go the extra mile for the other. It is clear now that General Sharif’s recent visit to Washington was aimed at maintaining this working relationship, not breaking new ground. Furthermore, on the ground mistrust runs thick in people from both nations towards each other. The US is no longer bound by Islamabad’s interests, and can now approach India with open arms.

Islamabad has been aware of this eventuality too, and has therefore strengthened ties with China. Both countries have shown real intent with projects like the Pak-China economic corridor, numerous energy initiatives and increased defence cooperation. Pakistan has also tentatively gone ahead in areas which were previously off-limits; military deals with Russia and economic cooperation with Iran. For Pakistan, these present economically viable relationships, not forced by necessity and mercurial in nature. General Sharif’s visit to China is a testament to this, with China vowing to “stand by Pakistan in all matters”. It may be too early to call but there is a definitive shift in strategic partnerships here, and perhaps a more logical one; one that is born out of geographical proximity and economic feasibility, not one based on a one-off global conflict. This logic may come at a price, with the US and China on opposing sides of the subcontinental border, there will be no-one to keep the peace.