Delicate balancing act – Newspaper
Delicate balancing act – Newspaper

Delicate balancing act – Newspaper

A QUESTION is often thrown around in political discussions across the country: Can Pakistan manage to balance its relations with the United States and China? Let us first see why this question is being asked. The evolving geopolitics, especially the competition between the United States and China, is increasingly resembling a new Cold War. If this competition intensifies further, there is growing concern that the world may be divided into two camps, and sooner or later the small and medium-sized powers may be asked to make a choice to join one of the two camps. .

Read more: Echoes of the Cold War

Some analysts argue that Pakistan cannot maintain a balance in the two conditions and should instead opt for the Chinese camp immediately. Their claim is that the United States was an unreliable partner, while China was a proven friend. In addition, the United States has already chosen India as its preferred strategic partner in South Asia to counter China, while Pakistan was exposed to US diplomatic pressure and economic coercion.

Should Pakistan belong to the United States or China’s camp?

There are two assumptions in this argument: One that two camps have already been formed and that Pakistan belongs to the Chinese camp. The second assumption is that once Pakistan is in the Chinese camp, it would be better positioned to face US strategic coercion in the diplomatic, political, and economic spheres.

Both assumptions do not seem valid at deeper reflection. First, the world is unlikely to be divided into camps as it was during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States and China are far more dependent on each other than the United States and the Soviet Union were. Bilateral trade between the United States and China, for example, exceeded $ 650 billion in 2021. China has over $ 1 trillion in U.S. securities. Many of America’s friends in Europe, the Gulf, and even in East Asia maintain close economic ties with China and are reluctant to view their relationship with the two superpowers as a zero-sum game. No country wants to give up one relationship for another. Intergovernmental relations these days are governed by the reciprocity of interests and question-based alliances. It is very possible for two countries to be allies on one issue and rivals on the other.

Read more: Pakistan wants to build a bridge between the United States and China instead of joining a bloc: Prime Minister Imran

China is without a doubt a trusted friend of Pakistan. It has always respected Pakistan’s sovereignty and supported us in international fora. China invested billions in our economy when no other country was willing to do so. However, this does not mean that we should expect China to take the consequences of our mismanagement of the economy and politics. In fact, the message from China has been to strive for a peaceful coexistence with India and friendly relations with the United States so that Pakistan can increase the space for its economic development. In short, China wants us to keep a balance in our relations with China and the United States. Here the balance does not mean equality or equal distance. It simply means letting any relationship serve your national interests.

Pakistan has had sustained periods of close cooperation with the United States. Right after independence, when Pakistan faced an existential threat from India, our leadership found it useful to become an ally with the United States to strengthen our military capabilities and lift agriculture and the economy. Ever since, thousands of Pakistani students went to the United States to get a higher education. More than a million Pakistanis have made the United States their home. The United States remains the largest destination for our exports. For decades, the balance of our trade with the United States has been to our advantage. US companies have had a consistent presence in Pakistan.

Read more: Pakistan wants to unite US and China to avoid a “Cold War-like” situation: Prime Minister Imran

So it makes sense for Pakistan to maintain close ties with both China and the United States. If we had to choose one against the other, there would be huge costs due to our financial vulnerabilities and harsh policies.

Admittedly, the balancing act will be difficult, whether it is the US-led democracy summit or the Olympic Winter Games held by China. But as long as Pakistan makes decisions based on its national interests, China and the United States will both show understanding. Every country has the right to pursue its own national interests, and so do we. The United Arab Emirates and some other Arab countries chose to establish relations with Israel because they felt it was in their national interest. Israel is a close ally of the United States, but it maintains strong economic ties with China. India, despite being an American ally, has not lowered its traditionally strong ties with Russia.

Pakistan must therefore maintain good relations with both China and the United States, no matter how delicate this balancing act may seem. Not maintaining a balance and creating an enemy out of one or the other can be costly for Pakistan.

The author is a former Secretary of State and author of Diplomatic Footprints.

Published in Dawn, February 22, 2022

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