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Pak, China 'friendly' display irks some US lawmakers

world Updated: May 18, 2011 13:50 IST

Pakistan's display of camaraderie with China during Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani's ongoing visit to the country has left some US lawmakers agitated and asking why Islamabad seeks more and more aid from America even when it calls China its "best friend".

Gilani landed in China on Tuesday for a four-day visit amid strains in ties with the US, and hailed Beijing as Islamabad's "best" and "most trusted friend". China in turn "unswervingly" backed Pakistan's anti-terror efforts.

The display has not gone unnoticed in Washington has has raised eyebrows.

"We are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar that we spend. It's a hard sell to the American people that we should borrow 40 cents, a lot of it from China, and spend it in Pakistan, and then have the head of Pakistan go to China and stand up and say, 'You're our best friend'. I mean, it just doesn't make sense," Senator Jim Risch said in his remarks at a Congressional hearing on Pakistan convened by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Risch, who represents Idaho in the US Senate, said he believed Americans were increasingly tired of "shoveling money" to people "who just flat don't like us".

He said he has had difficulty in explaining the US policy of spending billions on civilian issues in Pakistan to his constituents specially when every poll coming out of that country clearly displays the Pakistanis' dislike for America.

Referring to the flood relief efforts in Pakistan, he said US was the first state to rush aid and military to save lives and spent hundreds of millions rebuilding the bridges that were washed out.

But, he said, his constituents asked "why are we spending our kids' and our grandkids' money to do this in a country that really doesn't like us? And no matter what we do, we don't seem to move the needle at all as far as them liking us".

Senator Jim Webb said it was not feasible to discuss the strategic implications of Pakistan and the region without addressing China's influence.

"We can't examine clearly what our options are and I don't think we can examine what the region is going to potentially look like without talking about China," he said.

He observed that Pakistan and China shared concerns over India, which was one of the motivators of their partnership.

"We all know of Pakistan's long-term relationship with China and the reasons behind it, the inception, with the situations with India and a shared concern about India many, many years ago. There are people, smart people, who would assert that China actually enabled Pakistan to become a nuclear power," he said.

He pointed out how Gilani had hailed China ties before visiting that country.

Webb said one of the concerns from strategic American perspective about Chinese foreign policy for many years is the need for China to become "more overt" in helping solve problems -- be it Iran, Myanmar or North Korea, and the Af-Pak region.

"They are going to be a big beneficiary of any stability that we're able to bring about in the region. They're going to be a commercial beneficiary and also, obviously, in terms of regional stability," he said.

"So the real question is, how do we get China to be more involved in the solution of these kinds of problems rather than simply taking advantage of things one by one as they go wrong?" Webb asked.

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said China figures very significantly into some of the US' strategic thinking.