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Changes in Pakistan’s external environment have pushed it towards seeking a closer alliance with China. This is happening in response to the hardening of Washington’s position towards Islamabad in the context of Donald Trump’s evolving approach towards Afghanistan. The White House believes that America’s position in Afghanistan is due to Pakistan’s tolerance of extremists who are operating out of the sanctuaries they have established in the country’s tribal areas. The Trump administration is also developing close relations with India. In late November, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, went to India and was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a study prepared for a Washington-based think tank, Shirin Tahir-Kheli and I concluded that Islamabad should give a clear message to Washington that while in the past it might have relied heavily on America’s financial assistance, that need not be the case any longer. Now, in China, Pakistan has a source for the needed capital. In the three periods when Washington was deeply engaged with Pakistan, capital inflows helped the country achieve high rates of economic growth. But Washington came into the country for its own reasons and left, often abruptly, when it no longer needed Pakistan.