China keeps wary eye on Kerry’s Pak visit

Wary of US’s “Asia Pivot” strategy, China kept an eye on secretary of state John Kerry’s first visit to Pakistan as the state media noted that the Obama administration has adopted a “milder” approach on issues like terrorism and drone strikes to improve bilateral ties.

“Washington is quickening its steps to implement its “pivot to Asia” and “return to South Asia strategies,” an article in the state-run Global Times said Thursday.

“Pakistan, the second largest country after India in South Asia, is an important neighbour and strategic partner of China. Thus the future development of US-Pakistani ties is worthy of our close attention,” it said.

Kerry is on his maiden trip to Pakistan since he became the secretary of state to improve relations after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to power in Islamabad.

US-Pakistani relations have looked to be improving since the beginning of the year.

Kerry had expressed his hope to visit Islamabad on phone soon after Sharif won the May 11 general elections this year.

Unlike his predecessor Hillary Clinton, who held a “tough attitude towards Pakistan, Kerry has adopted a far milder manner by avoiding any links between the country and terrorism as well as calling for India and Afghanistan to develop friendly ties with Islamabad,” it said.

“What’s more, Sharif conveyed his willingness to strengthen ties with the US immediately upon returning to power,” it said.

Washington has drastically scaled back the number of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and limited strikes to high-value targets in response to growing criticism of the programme.

Only 16 drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan so far this year, compared with a peak of 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012, the paper quoted New America Foundation think-tank as saying.

“Such actions appear to have temporarily appeased the indignation of Pakistan’s powerful generals who publicly oppose covert CIA strikes,” it said.

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