An American drone attack at Baghdad Airport, assassinating Gen Qasem Soleimani of Iran, a symbol of terror to USA and Israel, triggered a new ripple of warfare. And beside upheaval in oil prices, the region is pushed to an edge of unavoidable combat. Amir Hatami; Iranian defence minister, has assured retaliation and open vengeance against the USA. Indeed attacking US homeland is a far-assumed notion, but attacking American interests in the region are expected targets. What are American interests in the Greater Middle East (GME) and South Asia(SA)? Traditionally, US interests in any part of the world are focused on safeguarding the uncontrolled flow of natural resources and upholding associations with important partners and defending them from external threats, but with the condition to confirm access for US military operations. Adding to these, now preserving US influence in GME and SA, obstructing growing influence of China in the region, reducing security threats to Israel, whose wars provide battlefield testing for American arms often against Russian weapons, intelligence help in covert operations, and missile capability of hitting Russia, are also on the menu of US interests in GME and SA. In these unwanted geopolitical wrinkles, Pakistan has to choose the side explicitly. History is a wonderful source to decide for future direction. Skimming through the history of some bilateral diplomatic relationships of Pakistan with big players of global political chessboard today (Russia, China, the USA), and assessing outcomes of these relations can be helpful to decide what to choose.

The traces of Pakistan-Russia relations are found right after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917; when Tsarist autocracy was shackled. In 1922 many communist revolutionists entered from the Soviet Union into the land that is in Pakistan now and participated in anti-British raj movement. Peshawar Conspiracy Cases, in which the defendants were accused of provoking a working-class against the British imperialist oppressors and return freedom to the masses are testimony to the said involvement of Russians in the context of freedom fight against British Empire. Diplomatic and bilateral relations of Independent Pakistan with Russian Federation commence from 1st May 1948, therefore last year on 1st May 2018, 70th anniversary of ambassadorial relations between Pakistan and Russia; former USSR, are celebrated. The Pak-Russo relation was dormant but turned healthy and warmed in the 1960s and 70s, which resulted in a tangible gift of the steel mill to Pakistan. However, in the 1980s the ties went sore because Pakistan harboured aid of USA to mujahidin in shape of FIM-92 Stinger missiles and others. But here it is to mention that China was also backing Afghan mujahidin against USSR. During these times India was a strong ally of USSR, engaged into Indo-Soviet treaty of friendship, bought arms amounting to billions of dollar on concessional terms, cashed vetoing power against each resolution that has been brought up by Pakistan to the UN regarding East-Pakistan situation. But right after the breakup USSR, India started finding a new power source, and finally with the consistent effort of 3 decades hopped into USA lap. Therefore in recent years, Pak-Russia ties began warming up again in response to escalating relations between India and the United States: a countermeasure strategy. After Uri attack, holding first-ever Pak-Russia joint military drills in 2016, notwithstanding Indian requests to delay due to Uri attack, signing an agreement for the North-South gas pipeline from Lahore to Karachi, granting Russia access to the Arabian sea through Gwadar Port, are clear signs of the upgraded script of diplomatic relation with Russia.

Pak-China relations began in 195. Pakistan was among the first countries that recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since then, the countries acknowledge each other as reliable strategic partners. Therefore they extend economic, political and military support to each other. Pak-China relation has never witnessed the cold. Pakistan was one of only two countries alongside Cuba to support PRC after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. China has become Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner. Recently, both nations have decided to cooperate in improving Pakistan’s civil nuclear power sector. Chinese cooperation with Pakistan has reached economic high points, with substantial Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructural expansion including the Pakistani deep-water port at Gwadar. Both countries have an ongoing free trade agreement. According to a poll conducted by BBC World Service, 75% of Pakistanis have a positive perception of China’s influence. Another survey exhibits that in the Asia-Pacific region; Chinese people hold the second most favourable opinions of Pakistan’s power in the world, after Indonesia. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the biggest development. The corridor has changed the situation entirely as China has carved an enormous plan for economic growth and development in Pakistan.

In October 1947, Pak-US diplomatic relations began. Pakistan remained instrumental in Operation Cyclone against USSR and was an integral player in CENTO, SEATO alliances. In post 9/11 Pakistan launched a series of military operations, participated in the war against terror that resultantly brought deaths, social disorder and economic depression in the country. Beside these all offerings, the US extended passing the Pressler amendment along significantly improving the relations with India intensely supported India’s Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) membership bid. Furthermore, Pakistan considers criticism of its nuclear program in Washington as discriminatory, unjustified. Pakistan also feels bitter as the US keeps quiet on Indian oppression in IOK, but never stops asking for more from Pakistan. Being part of US alliance, Pakistan received nothing but destruction, locally as well as internationally.

It is the time to rethink choosing the cruise: indirectly change the cruise. What stops us from choosing? If we are threatened militarily so one must not undermine the collaboration of Pak-Russo military strength accompanied by China, Iran, and many more. If the worry is economical, we should focus on self-dependence to safeguard independence, and must not miscalculate the advantages of our geological location, including partnering projects with China. How can we let any country challenge our sovereignty and make us compromise on our decisions just for hiring a few million people in their country? If the concern is oil, Iran and Russia are among the top 10 World’s Largest Oil Reserves countries. If the reason is religious attachment, then be sure it is not Saud family but Makkah and Madina. For how long we will let the house of Saud manipulating our religious sentiments and let KSA side anti-Muslim powers, such as Israel, India, US and others? Therefore going against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is not going against Islam; we need to come out of this cognitive misconception. Pakistan needs an obvious, and open upward trajectory in relations with countries who believe in growing together, rather enslaving their partners. Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China (PRIC) need to jell to bell the marauding cat.