As Washington’s focus switches from war on terror to its rivalry with China, Pakistan finds it has lost priority billing in US foreign policy.
A month after Joe Biden assumed the US presidency, Pakistan is increasingly concerned that the direction of its future relationship with the United States could be determined by Washington’s competition with China and the role that neighbouring nemesis India might play in it.
Since expecting power on January 20, Biden’s organization has put extraordinary accentuation on fortifying the part of the Quadrilateral Alliance involving the US and its vital partners in the Indo-Pacific international theater: Japan, Australia and India.
As China’s close ally and India’s historical enemy, “Islamabad will want to avoid getting in the crosshairs of US-China competition”, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistan ambassador to the US, United Nations and Britain. “And while it seeks an improved relationship with the US, it is obvious to Islamabad that Pakistan’s strategic future lies with China.” On the other hand, Pakistan has lost the priority billing in US foreign policy for the first time since the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks because the war on terrorism no longer drives Washington’s international agenda.
Overall, Washington may want Pakistan to be a weak ally of China but strong enough to serve U.S. purposes. But Washington would need a policy on Pakistan that is not simply a derivative of U.S. policies on China and India. Otherwise, both Pakistan and the United States will remain problematic partners for one another.