Partnership ‘wrong term’ for Pak-China ties: US

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US State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the remarks in answer to a question from a reporter if Pakistan was feeling “abandoned by the US” in opting to work closely with China…writes Arul Louis

Partnerships may be a “wrong term” to describe China’s relationship with Pakistan, warms US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

He said at his briefing on Wednesday: “We’ve made the point all along that it is not a requirement for any country around the world to choose between the US and China. It is our intention to provide choices to countries when it comes to what the relationship with the US looks like.”

At the same time, he affirmed, “Pakistan is a strategic partner of the United States. We have an important relationship with the government in Islamabad, and it’s a relationship that we value across a number of fronts”.

He made the remarks in answer to a question from a reporter if Pakistan was feeling “abandoned by the US” in opting to work closely with China.

Contrasting US relationships with that of the US, he said: “We think partnership with the United States conveys a series of advantages that countries typically would not find when it comes to the sorts of partnerships that – ‘partnerships’ may be the wrong term – the sorts of relationships that the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) has sought to have around the world.

“I will leave it to the Pakistanis and the PRC to speak to their relationships.”

That reporter also asked for a comment on Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi’s reported statement in the Lok Sabha that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s “strategic mistakes” brought China and Pakistan together.

Price said: “I certainly would not – would not endorse those remarks.”

Between 2002 and 2020, Pakistan received a total of $34.25 billion in aid, of which 8.28 billion was security assistance and $14.57 billion was “Coalition Support Funds” for assisting the US and its allies in their operations in Afghanistan, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Pakistan does not have to repay most of the assistance from the US in contrast to China’s aid, which in fact are mostly all loans.

In 2018, the administration of former President Donald Trump and Congress cut a total of $800 billion in aid to Pakistan.

The Pentagon cited a lack of cooperation with the US South Asia strategy, which was interpreted as a failure to act against terrorists attacking US and allied forces.

US officials have warned that China’s programmes of purported assistance have hidden price tags that could engulf the recipients in unrepayable debts.

Under the crushing load of Chinese debts under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative Islamabad asked Beijing last year to restructure $30 billion in loans.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed @arulouis)

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