When Pakistan’s PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi spoke at the Prime Minister’s meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Sochi earlier this month, he rightly pointed out that the regional bloc could play a major role in regional connectivity, trade, peace and development. The summit, in a changing geopolitical environment, hinted towards shifting regional and global alliances, with China at the forefront of this ‘new’ global order. The SCO has come a long way since it was first formed — in 2001 under the direction and leadership of Russia and China — to protect regional interests and enhance connectivity. With the inclusion of India and Pakistan as full members in June this year, the body boasts the potential of being one of the more efficient regional blocs in bringing arch rivals and tense neighbours — such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — together. Pakistan’s full membership in the SCO has interestingly coincided with the country’s current tensions with the United States. Not only is Islamabad aiming to reduce its dependence on Washington, but has also renewed efforts to look ‘Eastwards’ — especially towards the new-found love for its former adversary in Moscow. Russia did not only support Pakistan after Donald Trump’s anti-Pakistan tirade in his Afghanistan policy speech, but also recently advocated for Islamabad’s inclusion in the nuclear elite group. Both the countries, during PM Abbasi’s Russian visit, also expressed their satisfaction on how bilateral ties are moving on a positive trajectory.With the current tensions on an all-time high, and the CIA restarting its drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas, things are looking bad for the future of Pak-US bilateral ties. The US administration has also asked Pakistan to prove a ‘responsible stewardship’ of its nuclear arsenal. In response to such demands, Pakistan has also retaliated, at least verbally. The country’s National Security Adviser, Nasir Khan Janjua, recently accused Washington of exporting instability to South Asia, and also speaking India’s language on the Kashmir issue. On the face of it, things seem dire, with a complete breakdown of ties imminent, however, on paper the reality suggests otherwise. Too much appeasement of its new partners could result in Pakistan remaining a client state, the only difference being what master the country servesPakistani exports to USA — according to the US Trade Representative office — amounted to over $2.1 billion in 2016. Additionally, Washington is Pakistan’s 57th largest trade partner with two way trade amounting to $5.5 billion last year. Also, as of today, Pakistan’s external debt and liabilities stand at $85 billion, with more than $2 billion paid by Pakistan in the last quarter to pay its external debt.With such financial constraints, any tensions with the US could backfire as Washington enjoys substantial policy sway over global financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank. Not to ignore, Pakistan is still a recipient of USA’s financial assistance, with Trump recently signing a bill for $700 million in reimbursements for Pakistan’s support of US military operations in Afghanistan. With such a financial outlook, Pakistan seemingly loses more if its plans to sever ties with the United States. Therefore, Pakistan is treading a fine line at the moment.On the one hand, it wants a well-publicised divorce with the US, whereas on the other, it is also trying ‘too hard’ to please China; mainly due to the ‘potential’ positive impact of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) on Pakistan’s economy. Pleasing China isn’t bad, as for starters, Beijing isn’t interested in droning or threatening Pakistan on major security issues. However, an overreliance on China could also have negative repercussions for the country. For almost five years now, successive governments have sold the idea of CPEC as ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for Pakistan. From linking it to Pakistan’s prosperity to chiding Imran Khan for negatively affecting the project because of his first dharna (sit-in) in 2014, Pakistanis have heard all kinds of rationales for why CPEC is the country’s economic ‘saviour’. The project surely has its rewards; both short and long term. It might also end up creating jobs for Pakistanis, and therefore help the country’s economy. However, what happens after CPEC? Will Pakistan eternally rely on CPEC for its economic growth?Pakistan, needs to effectively use its new regional alliances — looking beyond China — to strengthen its economy and in the process, reduce its reliance on major partners. It sounds pragmatic — at least in theory — for Pakistan to look eastwards and consolidate its new alliances. However, too much appeasement of its new partners could result in Pakistan remaining a client state, with the only difference of swapping one master for another.The writer is a PhD (Politics) Candidate currently pursuing his studies in Australia. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also consults Islamabad-based Security think tank, Centre for Research and Security Studies. He is specialising in Indigenous conflict resolution and counter insurgency. He tweets at @faruqyusafPublished in Daily Times, December 21st 2017.