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Pakistan eyes Russia, China as US relations sour

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif calls for rethink of alliance with Washington

Pakistan eyes Russia, China as US relations sour Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan

The time is right for Pakistan to review its ties with the U.S. and look to China and Russia for support, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Tuesday.

His comments are the latest indication that Islamabad is looking to align itself with the eastern powers in the face of the U.S.’s pivot away from Pakistan towards India.

Asif’s remarks came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met senior political and military leaders in Islamabad in an attempt to bridge the deepening mistrust between the former allies.

“China lives next to us and we have a common wall,” Asif told a seminar in Islamabad, broadcaster Dawn News reported. “Russia can also be our good friend.”

The U.S. has accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-backed government is struggling to contain terror attacks. Washington has suggested Pakistan’s rival India could play a greater role in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has denied backing Taliban and Haqqani network fighters and has accused Kabul of not acting against Afghanistan-based militants attacking Pakistani security forces and civilians.

Pakistan and China are engaged in the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor -- part of Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project -- that aims to connect China’s Xinjiang province to southwest Pakistan via a network of road, rail and pipelines.

In a deal with Russia, Pakistan recently procured four attack helicopters, possibly paving the way for broader military cooperation.

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