Pak tries to outflank US and India in Kabul with China card WASHINGTON: The diplomatic form book shows that every time Pakistan is hauled up by its longtime patron United States, its leaders hare off to Beijing or Riyadh for solace and stash, comfort and cash. Small change in the script this time. Shortly before the top American military official Mike Mullen virtually called Pakistan a terrorist state last week, a charge compounded by Wikileaks cables showing Washington's profound distrust of Islamabad, Pakistan's prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hotfooted it to Kabul. There, flanked by his military supremo Ashfaq Kiyani and chief spook Shuja Pasha, he is said to have made an audacious pitch to the beleaguered Afghan President Hamid Karzai: Let's both ditch US and hitch our stars to China. The development, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, has stunned Washington at a time US appears confused and vulnerable on the geo-political and domestic front, with big personnel changes in the Obama administration, a President seeking re-election, a struggling economy, and rising tensions across the world. There are cries of betrayal and disbelief at perceived Pakistani perfidy in some circles, with calls for re-ordering the relationship. According to the WSJ account of the April 16 meeting, Gilani bluntly told Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, the US policy of trying to open peace talks while at the same time fighting the Taliban made no sense, and he should forget about allowing a long-term US. military presence in his country. Gilani also reportedly said America's economic problems meant it couldn't be expected to support long-term regional development and argued that a better partner would be China, Pakistan's "all-weather" friend. There is no word on whether Karzai, who has also been having problems with the Obama administration, took the bait. The Journal said Karzai was wavering on the overtures with pro and anti-American factions around him trying to sway him to their side. But there is growing anger in Washington at Pakistan's gambit, which comes at a time Islamabad is living on US dole even as Americans tax payers are starting to question US munificence. Pakistan's finance minister Hafeez Shaikh was in Washington seeking to speed up US aid and another Washington-supported bail-out from IMF even as Gilani, shepherded by Kayani and Pasha, was trying to outflank America in Kabul. Pakistan has expectedly denied the exchanges. "Reports claiming Gilani-Karzai discussion abt Pakistan advising alignment away fm US are inaccurate," the country's ambassador to the US., Hussain Haqqani tweeted on Wednesday. The Pakistani foreign office spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua termed it "the most ridiculous report we have come across." But US experts are taking it seriously and there has been a flurry of analyses on what the Pakistani gambit could lead to. "Whether the article quotes Gilani accurately is not the central issue. There have been enough indications over the last year that Pakistan is not on board with the US. strategy in Afghanistan," said Heritage Foundation's Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst. "It is plausible that Pakistan has decided to start playing its cards with Afghan and Chinese leaders to try to achieve its own objectives in Afghanistan." Some analysts feel the contours of the new great game in the region point to a confluence of interest between China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia on one side and India, US, Iran and Russia on the other side. But "China consolidates the former while the US splits the latter," says Nitin Pai, fellow at the Takshashila Foundation. A more benign explanation offered by Americans for the Pak-Afghan tango and the deliberate leaking of its details by Kabul is that the players are trying to get the best bargain from Washington as US seeks to withdraw troops from the region. Yet, in a reflection of US. concerns about Pakistan's overtures, the commander of the US.-led coalition, Gen. David Petraeus, is said to have met Karzai three times since April 16 to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support and to nudge forward progress on the strategic partnership deal which will define their future relationship, including American bases and support. Pakistan, for obvious reasons, resents and fears a pro-American, pro-Indian regime in Kabul that will keep out the Taliban yahoos that Islamabad and its axis backs.