ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has tasked his diplomatic corps led by Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi to engage in back channel talks to improve ties with the United States as growing ties with China have become an irritant in relations with United States, official sources said.

“The two top diplomats have been assigned the task to bring the ties back to normal. Pakistan’s diplomats in the US and UN have also been asked to use their offices and skills to improve confidence level with Washington,” a close aide of Prime Minister Sharif told The Nation.

“The US is seemingly not happy with the way Pakistan is engaging China. The contacts with Russia are also worrisome for them,” he said. The close aide of the premier said that in the coming days, the senior diplomats will work ‘on this assignment’ and try to bridge the gaps.

The fast growing US-India ties prompted Pakistan to remind Washington that it also has a powerful strategic ally in the region - China. Barrack Obama’s visit to India this year, his second since assuming the office, showered many favours on New Delhi.

The US’ guaranteeing nuclear concessions and NSG waiver to a non-signatory of NPT, gaining access to Indian market economy, offering $4 billion loans and investments, inking 10-year defence agreement and reiterating its support for India’s ambitions to seek permanent membership of UNSC clearly reflected discriminatory policy of US towards Pakistan, notwithstanding Pakistan’s enormous contribution to US led war on terror.

Pakistan is relying on China for its vast investment in energy, trade sector and its support on Kashmir issue at international forums. China deems Pakistan as an important ally to counterbalance Indian and US influence in the region. Besides this, China needs Pakistan to counter regional terrorism and to gain access to the Middle East and the Indian Ocean via Gwadar Port. Moreover, the Silk route running through Pakistan is suits China best to reach Central Asia and Europe.

Pakistan and China have been co-operating in sectors of defence, energy, infrastructure, health and technology. Both have joint ventures like Gwadar Port and the proposed Pak-China Economic Corridor. The US and India have always viewed the relations between the two countries with concern and suspicion. For US, the emergence of China as a global power is radiating serious threat to its national interests, the containment of which appears to be its core objective.

China is Pakistan’s largest arms supplier, having sold or transferred it nearly $4 billion in weapons since 2006, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), which monitors arms sales. The US, with about $2.5 billion in arms sales to Pakistan over the past nine years, is the country’s second-largest arms supplier.

Commenting on the Pak-China ties, Gwadar Port Authority Chairman Dostain Khan Jamaldini said, “Pak-China Economic Corridor will bring an economic revolution in our country... We value ties with the US but China has been our time tested friend. They have helped us whenever we needed it.”

Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Shaista Pervez said, “Pakistan wants good ties with all major powers. US should not be worried about our relations with China”. She added, “This is not the era of conventional war but it is the time to fight on economic front. Pakistan wants to maintain peaceful relations with all. Ties with Russia are improving which is a good sign”.

Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal observed, “Pak-China ties and good relations with Russia do not affect Pakistan’s relationship with US. We are a sovereign country and need to maintain good ties with all the global powers”. Russia has withdrawn its sanctions which were imposed on Pakistan by Russian in past, he said, adding, “The credit of this efficient foreign policy goes to prime minister and army chief of Pakistan.”

Former senior diplomat Mushtaq Ahmed Maher said, “Moscow is keen to provide security assistance to regional countries. Russia has a good quality communication system and a high level technology based helicopters. Pakistan can take help of Russian technology in war against terrorism”.

“Global strategic environment is changing rapidly and a strong foreign policy is quite necessary for Pakistan. On one side China is emerging as new economic power and on the other side Russia has already a strong position in the region. Russia has a strong influence in the regional affairs and we need to promote our relations with Russia especially in socio-political, economic and defence sector,” Maher said.

Veteran politician Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in a recent interview with The Nation had said that Pakistan does no need the US anymore amid growing ties with China. “After the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) nobody will even look towards the US”, he maintained. “China is helping us come out of the US influence. If we do so, we will become a more powerful nation which can talk to other countries on equality basis”, he said.