Khar urges PM to avoid ‘US appeasement’, prioritise China in leaked memo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s internal struggle to balance its relationships with China and the United States has been exposed through a recent leak of a major cache of the latter’s top-secret military intelligence records.

The leaked documents are believed to be the most serious US security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010.

The episode embarrassed the US by revealing its spying on allies, including Pakistan, and the purported military vulnerabilities of Ukraine.

This leak, however, did not come to light until it was reported by the New York Times earlier this month even though the documents were posted on a social media website weeks earlier.

Among the leaked documents is a memo authored by Hina Rabbani Khar, deputy foreign minister, entitled “Pakistan’s Difficult Choices,” reported The Washington Post. The document outlined Pakistan’s conundrum in managing its relations with the US, while also maintaining strong ties with China.

According to the memo, if Pakistan were to adopt an attitude of appeasement towards the West, particularly the US, it could impede the country’s potential for fully realising the benefits of its relationship with China.

The memo suggests that Pakistan can “no longer try to maintain a middle ground between China and the United States,” and must make a strategic decision to prioritise its relationship with Beijing.

Another document revealed the prime minister deliberated with an unnamed aide about Pakistan’s stance on the Ukraine conflict during a UN vote on a resolution condemning the violence in Ukraine.

According to the intelligence report, the aide advised Shehbaz Sharif that supporting the measure would signify a shift in Pakistan’s position, as it had previously abstained on a similar resolution.

The official also noted that Pakistan had the opportunity to negotiate important trade and energy deals with Russia, and that backing the Western-backed resolution could jeopardise those ties.

When the UN General Assembly voted on the resolution on February 23, Pakistan joined 32 other countries in abstaining from the resolution.

Observers believe developing nations are recalibrating at a moment when the US faces potent new competition, as China projects new economic and military clout and Russia demonstrates its ability to deflect Western pressure.

“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,” Matias Spektor, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.

— With input from Reuters

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