WASHINGTON: Maintaining a strategic balance in relations with both the United States and China has become increasingly crucial for Pakistan to safeguard its interests amid growing tensions between these global powers, argued Wilson Center’s Pakistan fellow Baqir Sajjad.

“This strategy helps Pakistan safeguard its interests and navigate the complexities of international politics,” he said at a seminar hosted by the Washington think tank.

Mr Sajjad, also working on a book about the same subject for the Wilson Center, elaborated on the concept of ‘calibrated hedging’. He outlined the “hedging plus” strategy, involving a nuanced approach in dealing with major global powers without fully aligning with any single power.

He argued that Pakistan must strategically select partners that align with its goals in the evolving global landscape.

Historically, Pakistan has had close ties with both powers. While Beijing provided substantial economic and military support, Washington has been a long-standing ally.

Various factors, such as the growing US-India relationship and increasing tensions between the US and Pakistan, however, have pushed Islamabad closer to Beijing.

But, recent developments indicate that Islamabad is inclined to maintain positive relations with both Beijing and Washington. This diplomatic approach mirrors Pakistan’s aim to balance its ties with these major global players, preserving its interests amid shifting geopolitical dynamics.

Mr Sajjad supported this approach, emphasising that political, economic, and security imperatives necessitate Pakistan to maintain this strategic balance, avoiding being tied down by binding alliances.

The strategy recommends ensuring clarity, economic stability, and diplomatic agility for Pakistan’s national interests amidst global power shifts.

He argued that Pakistan’s primary focus must be on strategic engagement rather than alignment. Collaborative efforts with the US are essential, especially concerning economic challenges, regional stability, and counterterrorism. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s alliance with China plays a crucial role in achieving economic development and addressing vulnerabilities regarding India.

The paper stresses that economic stability is a mutual concern and a critical point of convergence for both rival powers. Prioritising this objective can lead to broader engagement, given that Pakistan’s fiscal health aligns with the geopolitical interests of both the US and China.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2023

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