THE arrival of a top Russian diplomat, coinciding with the presence of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Islamabad on Wednesday, assumes particular importance as America prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan. During his stay Mr Jiechi met all those who matter, including the army chief, and expressed his admiration for the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the fight against terrorism. While his words sound reassuring, it is the arrival of Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan that is particularly significant and indicates Moscow’s recognition of Pakistan’s key role in the future of Afghanistan. Russia, let us not forget, has more than a century of involvement with Muslim lands to its south, and even though it withdrew from Afghanistan after a disastrous military campaign, it still has stakes in the region. Like all world powers and regional states, it would want a post-America Afghanistan that is not a hub of terrorism and doesn’t once again witness a new round of internal strife. To that extent, Islamabad’s interests coincide with those of Moscow.

These visits should not, however, detract from attempts to correct the course of the critical US-Pakistan relationship. An American military delegation is due next week and will undertake the onerous task of seeking a breakthrough in a relationship that has remained deadlocked since Salala. Wheels within wheels characterise US-Pakistan relations, with events — and the way both countries handle them — overtaking the two sides with a rapidity that complicates the task further. The latest to add to tensions is the Secretary of State’s public disapproval and the Congressional aid cut in response to Dr Shakil Afridi’s conviction. Whether or not the man actually supported militants, Pakistan didn’t even bother to tell the world that that is what he was convicted for, as official trial documents now claim.

There are other powers with whom we need to have fruitful political and economic ties. But the recent visits by Russia and China should not become cause for Islamabad and Rawalpindi to forget the importance of the relationship with America. As the two countries try to establish themselves as world powers, they will naturally seek to strengthen regional alliances and assume bigger roles in a resolution of the Afghanistan conflict. Pakistan has a lot to gain from relationships with them too, especially in the field of economic cooperation, and should address their concerns about terrorism. But America is a critical player in the region as well, and other relationships should not become cause for complacency or reason to assume that a functional relationship with the US is not critical and long overdue.

Opinion

Quest for truth
18 Jun 2021

Quest for truth

News travels quickly and without any editorial checks.
Controversial poll reforms
Updated 17 Jun 2021

Controversial poll reforms

If govt doesn’t engage opposition in dialogue, its last two years may be spent in dealing with a controversy over electoral laws.

Editorial

Poll bill reservations
Updated 18 Jun 2021

Poll bill reservations

Reforming the electoral process is vital for Pakistan, and doing so by taking everyone on board is equally important.
18 Jun 2021

E-fund transfer fee

THE State Bank’s decision to withdraw the facility of free of cost digital fund transfer services is disappointing...
18 Jun 2021

Gaza bombed again

MEMORIES of last month’s savage assault by Israel targeting Gaza had not yet faded when earlier this week news...
Shameful behaviour
17 Jun 2021

Shameful behaviour

Both opposition and treasury members should create space for opinions to be heard and aired.
17 Jun 2021

Sindh budget

A CURSORY reading of the Sindh budget 2021-22 reinforces the impression that Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s...
17 Jun 2021

West on China

IN what seems like a distinct return to Cold War rhetoric, the Western bloc has issued back-to-back statements...