Trump Beware: Pakistan's Luck Playing China Card is Turning
At the lowest ebb of the last annus horribilis for U.S.-Pakistan ties in 2011, soon after the special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan brandished the China card: if relations with Washington were going into a tailspin, Islamabad would turn to Beijing instead. They were rebuffed. China discreetly made it clear to both the United States and Pakistan that the “all-weather friendship” was already as deep as they wanted it to be and that Islamabad needed to focus on fixing its relations with Washington.
With President Donald Trump’s announcement that the new U.S.-South Asia strategy will involve tightening the screws on Pakistan if it doesn’t address militant safe havens within its borders, the early indications are that the China card will be played again. This time, however, Pakistan may have more luck. The relationship with Beijing is in a very different place now and while China will take its usual care not to get caught in the middle, it is likely to provide a stronger backdrop of support than it did the last time U.S.-Pakistan tensions escalated.