Few US relationships are as complicated as the one with onetime ally and occasional frenemy, Pakistan, which is now closely aligned with China, reported Asia Times.
Arif Rafiq, writing in the publication said that the US-Pakistan reset won't lessen China's dependence and the scope for improved US-Pakistan ties is limited while China remains Islamabad's biggest source of finance, arms and investment.
Pakistan and the US have recently been pursuing a reset of relations. High-level visitors from both countries have expressed intentions to find a basis for a partnership not centered on Pakistan's neighbors Afghanistan or India.
Pakistani commentators and officials have depicted official visits as major moves toward rekindling the US-Pakistan partnership or even tilting away from China, reported Asia Times.
Pakistan's domestic politics has been a contributor to the divergence of its foreign policy discourse from global realities.
The campaign to oust then-prime minister Imran Khan in early 2022 was justified in part by claims that he damaged Pakistan's ties with the United States and other partners, said Rafiq.
Moreover, today's geopolitics is increasingly shaped by energy resources and knowledge economy-driven technologies like artificial intelligence -- areas where Pakistan is deficient.
Pakistan's strategic community must not only come to terms with their country's growing geopolitical irrelevance, but it also needs to develop a clearer understanding of the implications of the ongoing attempted rebalancing toward the US, said Rafiq.
The potential upside of a tilt toward the US is modest and the risks to Pakistan's relationship with China are significant.
Considering China is Pakistan's largest bilateral creditor, investor and source of arms, it is a poor idea to antagonize a country from which one seeks debt relief or restructuring, Rafiq added.
Pakistani leaders are right to seek an improved relationship with the United States, which is its largest export market and home to a prosperous Pakistani diaspora. But their attempts to avoid getting tied with China in its rivalry with the United States are clumsy.
In September 2022, senior Pakistani officials sought support for debt relief from the United States. But US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken instead publicly called on Pakistan to seek assistance from Beijing first, triggering an angry response from Chinese officials.
While the desire in US President Joe Biden's administration for a reset of ties with Pakistan is genuine, its ceiling is low. In previous high periods of US-Pakistan relations, Islamabad saw inflows of billions of US dollars in aid annually and frequent high-profile visits, reported Asia Times.
Resentment toward Islamabad is pervasive in Washington as its military is seen as a major cause of the United States' failure in Afghanistan.
Given this context, US-Pakistan relations will be limited to the non-strategic domain.
For Washington, Islamabad will occupy a regional status akin to that of Dhaka, not New Delhi -- albeit with a greater security dimension, said Rafiq.
Pakistan's economic distress inhibits its ability to navigate this multipolar era as adroitly as India. New Delhi continues to be aggressively courted by Washington even as it remains closely partnered with Moscow and a major importer of Russian oil.
For Pakistan to increase its resilience to the geopolitical storms ahead, it must play the long game and prioritize domestic economic reform. The type of private sector inflows from the West that can reduce its dependence on China and produce sustained, rapid growth will have to be hard-earned, said Rafiq. (ANI)