From the last link:

It is believed that certain Pakistani friends in the Arab world are pushing Islamabad to distance itself from China and forge closer ties with the US and its allies.

But Prime Minister Imran Khan in a recent television interview made it clear that Pakistan considered China a long-term strategic and economic partner.

China has alignment with other countries even in Europe. Some EU countries became part of the Chinese BRI. There are numerous other countries working with China in the BRI project.

Why is the USA so concerned about Pakistan's alignment with China? Why is Pakistan so "special"?

  • 5
    Do you have any evidence to support the assumption that Pakistan is "special" in this regard and that the US is not putting similar pressure on other countries? Not specific to the BRI but LA Times has a piece about similar US pressure towards Malaysia, Philippines, etc.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:56

4 Answers 4


The United States considers China to be somewhat of a hostile rival, with ambitions for replacing them as the world's strongest economic and military (perhaps) superpower.

Pakistan is a nuclear nation, a vital area either in fomenting terrorist organizations or battling their formation, and has the fifth-largest population in the world.

If such a nation is aligned with the USA and friendly and cooperative with their interests in the world, it helps the USA in that region, greatly, in general, but also specifically in keeping China more isolated and less able to expand their reach, both regionally and worldwide.

If Pakistan is instead closely aligned with China that would potentially signal their friendliness to China's interests (or, at least, being not aligned with US-specific interests), and possibly against the USA's. That would erode US influence in the region and increase China's.

Also, with the US trying to thread the needle in keeping both Pakistan and Indian in a state of US-friendly status, it increase the ability to keep a lid on that particular tinderbox that has nuclear possibilities, if one looks beyond US influence considerations.

One nation, each, aligned with rival patron nations probably increases the likelihood of belligerence between those two nations.

  • 4
    @user366312 - Very possibly, yes. I think that the USA is so used to being able to largely bully their/our way to what is wanted, post-USSR, that viewing situations from the standpoint of the other nations involved is not necessarily our strong point. But I'm answering why the USA might be concerned, not how deft their foreign policy management is. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 16:04

Pakistan is an important country for many reasons, but has been for many years. You have to ask, why is this happening now?

The U.S. is not so much concerned about "winning" Pakistan over (which could almost never happen anyway due to their insurmountable differences and recent history), as much as thwarting China.

Pakistan is immensely important for China. Their history as "all weather friends" goes back to the very founding of the P.R.C.. In a very real sense, Pakistan is China's only friend of any significance (if you don't count the other highly unstable regimes that also tend to side with them at the U.N.).

If the U.S. could somehow permanently break that relationship, it could almost lead to the complete international isolation of China in a strategic sense. As I said above, that is very unlikely to happen, but they could at least damage the relationship enough to gain some additional leverage over China.

EDIT: Some additional context (really just expanding on T-Pioniere's answer)

The primary practical reason that Pakistan is so important for China is access to the Arabian Sea. Pakistan has provided not only long-term access to a port (which has shown some early signs of militarization), but also a direct land route through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. These both are part of the Belt and Road initiative, ostensibly a trade route, but (by no coincidence) gives them defensible, "blue-water", naval capabilities. Essentially that means practically unrestrictable access to the worlds oceans. If you look at a map of China, you will see that its entire coastline is encircled by countries that may not necessarily side with China if there was a military dispute. This presents particular problems for China's submarines accessing deep ocean undetected. Partnership with Pakistan delivers all this, and it also keeps their main regional rival, India, on its toes.

  • "highly unstable regimes"? Cuba is surely more stable than Pakistan. And so in North Korea (which also has nukes). I'd agree on Pakistan's greater significance. Pakistan being more democratic than those also means its foreign policy is less stable, in some regards at least. Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 4:00

Most because the location of Pakistan.

Map Around Pakistan

Pakistan has a coastline in the Arabian Sea, which can threaten India’s control of the Indian Ocean. If the China-Pakistan relationship is good enough, the Chinese navy can stop at any port on this coastline. Indians are very worried, which makes Americans very worried. They hope to lock China in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and they cannot allow China to find a place where they can break through the line of defense. In the future, the strength of the Chinese navy is likely to grow to be able to operate in several places at the same time.

Pakistan is also next to Iran. Iran is a strategic alliance of China, but absolutely an enemy of America. In American government's brain, China, "enemy of free world" mustn't intervene in Iranian affairs. China is far from Iran now, but Pakistan is not.

For the third point, Pakistan is next to Afghanistan. Although American army is not in Afghanistsan anymore, but they won't give it to China. By the way, Syria is a bit far from Pakistan - just a bit.

At last, I want to agree @PoloHoleSet 's some points. Pakistani army is strong. Pakistani population is very large. But it seem that they're poor.

  • But it seem that they're poor. --- why does that matter to the USA?
    – user366312
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 1:25
  • Iran is a strategic alliance of China, ... --- not true. Iran-China deal isn't signed yet.
    – user366312
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 1:27
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    This answer makes an important point about China's presence in the Indian ocean. Note that China owns the Port of Gwadar, and nearby special economic zone. They are important elements of the One Belt One Road programme. Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 13:26
  • @user366312 Mao Zedong said, "The enemy's enemy is our friend." China government usually support Iranian goverment because they have the same enemy: the US. When the changing of price of oil was not good for Iranian econimic and Iranian people started to protest, Chinese news clearly leaned towards government.
    – Clever TP
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 15:33
  • Pakistani people are poor, so their government isn't rich enough too. If the government has no much money, it can't make its army stronger, make its people happier at the same time. If Pakistani army is weak, Indian will give its neighbor more attack, and due to Pakistan is one of Chinese alliance, the US will do more things around it.
    – Clever TP
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 15:37

Pakistan may not, at present, be an extremely useful or trustworthy strategic partner for the US. They have been, at times, especially during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the US's subsequent support for anti-Soviet guerillas.

However, as they have amply demonstrated since 2001, their position as a gateway to Afghanistan gives them unique leverage to make life miserable for both Afghans and anyone else involved in that country, which until further developments includes a lot of US troops. It would not be hard to see a "bounty program on US troops via Pakistan". Essentially, what Putin is alleged to have been running and what the US ran on the USSR. Essentially, Kipling's Great Game, 21st century style.

Given Pakistan's economic and political problems they're more a potential spoiler than a really useful ally, but still not a party you want to see cozying up too much to your rivals.

Edit: as a comment rightfully reminds me, I neglected to mention the Taliban

This movement originated from Pakistani madrassas in 94. The level of influence Pakistan still has over them is a good indicator of Pakistani duplicity, even as they pocketed hundred of M$ in US military aid. Or the fact that Bin Laden was able to live unmolested in Abbottabad for years in an area with massive military complexes.

During the Afghan War, some the fiercest battlezones were consistently in the Pech area, which were sitting on infiltration routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Even as Pakistan's ISI sponsored the Taliban, they don't fully control their extremists either, as when a school got attacked. Or when a navy base did.

In short, Pakistan is not the most stable state, there's a tug of war between the government, the military and the extremists. Nor is a very competent one (#120 on 2019 corruption index). The trio of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran has, very negatively, influenced Islam, just like religious extremists in 16th century Spain did massive disservice to the Catholic religion.

I don't really blame the Pakistani people, they've been duped by their leadership, starting with Zia-ul-Haq who promoted Islam to improve his power base. But you can judge a country by the laws it keeps and few countries sink as low as having the death penalty for blasphemy.

So, less than how useful it can be as a US ally, Pakistan in important in how much of a spoiler it is in the area.

  • You forgot to mention (or, is it intentional?) Pakistan holds the key to the Afghan peace process (so that Americanos can pull their asses out) as the Taliban are loyal to Pakistan.
    – user366312
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:55
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    This answer has zero credibility as it doesn't refer to any impartial source.
    – user366312
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:56
  • @user366312 you know, rather than a blanket "this lacks credibility" maybe you could point out the specific points you disagree with? I'd be happy to be back them up. The only that really isn't happening right now is the bounty program (to be honest I am not even sure the alleged Russia-on-US bounties are indeed happening though I found it odd that when pressed about it Trump would justify it by saying the US did the same to the USSR when they were enemies). The US has long been dissatisfied, not just under the current administration, with the reliability of Pakistan. Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 16:35

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