Pakistan and US relations are uneasy, documents reveal

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Recently released classified documents show that Islamabad has been quietly distancing themselves from the United States on key issues like Ukraine, Dawn reported.

The documents, published by The Washington Post and other US media outlets, include two Pakistani memos warning policymakers not to annoy China to maintain links with the United States.

In one of the memos, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar argues that Pakistan can “no longer try to maintain a middle ground between China and the United States.”

The internal memo was sent to official recipients in Pakistan in March.

Titled “Pakistan’s Difficult Choices”, the memo cautions Islamabad should avoid giving the appearance of appeasing the West. It warns that the instinct to preserve Pakistan’s partnership with the United States would ultimately sacrifice the full benefits of the country’s “real strategic” partnership with China.

Leaked memos featuring PM Shehbaz, Khar show Islamabad is distancing itself from US positions on Beijing and Moscow

The leaked US intelligence document containing the memo does not say how Washington obtained Ms Khar’s memo.

Another document, dated February 17, details Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s deliberations with a subordinate about an upcoming UN vote on the Ukraine conflict. It also anticipated renewed Western pressure to back the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion.

Pakistan is among the 32 countries that have abstained from voting every time a US-backed resolution on the Ukrainian conflict was raised in the UN General Assembly.

In the memo, one of his aides advises PM Sharif that supporting the measure would signal a shift in Pakistan’s position following its earlier abstention on a similar resolution.

The aide says Pakistan has the ability to negotiate trade and energy deals with Russia, and backing the resolution could jeopardise those ties.

Last week, Pakistan placed its first order for buying crude oil from Russia and its US Ambassador Masood Khan said Islamabad had consulted Washington before placing the order. The US administration, he said, had no objection to the proposed deal.

A Washington Post report says the leaked documents show how major developing nations seek to “evade the intensifying standoff between the United States, Russia and China and, in some cases, exploit that rivalry for their own gain.”

The documents provide a rare glimpse into how key emerging powers — including India, Brazil, Pakistan, and Egypt — are balancing their relations between the US and Russia and China.

Matias Spektor, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said developing nations were reluctant to take sides on the US-China, US-Russia disputes. “It’s unclear who will end up in a pole position in 10 years’ time, so they need to diversify their risk and hedge their bets,” Mr Spektor added.

The Biden administration, however, has told these countries that it’s not asking them to pick sides between the US on one hand and China and Russia on the other.

The Post notes that India, too, is avoiding taking sides between Washington and Moscow. One leaked document details a Feb 22 conversation between Indian national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval and his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev.

Mr Doval assures Mr Patrushev of India’s support for Russia in multilateral venues and tells him that New Delhi would ensure the war does not come up during a Group of 20 meeting chaired by India, despite “considerable pressure” to do so.

At the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in New Delhi a week later, disagreement over Ukraine resulted in a failure to forge a consensus on broader global challenges.

Mr Doval cites India’s resistance to pressure for supporting Western-backed UN resolutions over Ukraine, saying his country “would not deviate from the principled position it had taken in the past”.

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