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Aug 19, 2012
Pakistan is hoping for Biden to reset relations. Will he stop the US policy drift towards India?

  • Pakistan is looking for a positive change under Biden and hopes he will, unlike Trump, address its concerns on regional instability and India’s revisionist policies
  • The Pakistan-US relationship, long dominated by strategic concerns, can be more productive if they work on larger goals such as climate change, health care, education and infrastructure development

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan meets then US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on July 22, 2019. Trump offered to help resolve India and Pakistan's long-running conflict over the territory of Kashmir during the meeting. Photo: Bloomberg

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan meets then US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on July 22, 2019. Trump offered to help resolve India and Pakistan's long-running conflict over the territory of Kashmir during the meeting. Photo: Bloomberg

Pakistan and the United States have a multifaceted relationship in areas including counterterrorism, energy, trade and investment. Pakistan, the US and its allies have been fighting the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The US is one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan and a top destination for Pakistani goods.
Even so, relations need more constructive dialogue for future collaboration. Pakistan hopes for a positive change from US President Joe Biden’s administration and believes that, unlike former president Donald Trump, Biden will address Pakistan’s concerns on regional instability and India’s revisionist policiesin South Asia.
For Pakistan, four areas remain crucial: the need for a balance between US-Pakistan and US-India relations;
peace and stability in Afghanistan and a convergence of interests between Pakistan and the US; Pakistan-China relations, and; Pakistan’s position on the Abraham Accords in the overall context of the Middle East.
The US relationship with India has been a defining factor in Pakistan-US relations. Islamabad has been sensitive to growing India-US ties since the 1990s. The US moved closer to India than ever under Trump and Pakistan believes that America’s South Asia policies favour India.

Trump’s approach to the region largely decoupled India and Pakistan, which generated less concern from Pakistan about the US-India relationship. Pakistan expects the Biden administration to be more concerned about upholding human rights and United Nations resolutions in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Biden’s victory instills fresh hope in Kashmir over revocation of special status
Biden’s victory instills fresh hope in Kashmir over revocation of special status

Vice-President Kamala Harris is on record as highlighting Indian oppression of Kashmiris and the treatment meted out to Indian minorities. This stance will give Pakistan an opportunity to highlight India’s human rights and international law violations.

During a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House, Trump
offered to mediate
between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. However, India immediately responded that Kashmir was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

Biden’s presence in the White House can help Pakistan forge new partnerships with the US based on mutual geopolitical and economic interests. Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan because that is connected to stability in Pakistan.

The US also needs Pakistan to mediate between Americans and Afghans during
peace dialogue in Afghanistan. For the past two decades, Afghanistan has kept the US and Pakistan connected in one way or another. Afghanistan was also close to Biden’s heart when he was vice-president.

US, Taliban sign historic peace deal to end war in Afghanistan and withdraw US troops

US, Taliban sign historic peace deal to end war in Afghanistan and withdraw US troops

US, Taliban sign historic peace deal to end war in Afghanistan and withdraw US troops
The current momentum in the Afghan peace processis already revealing some spoilers in the Afghan government and the Indian strategic community. They appear to feel that the trajectory of US policy in Afghanistan will leave little room for the Doval Doctrine to affect Afghanistan-Pakistan relations.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan permits it to redefine its interests in the region. It also presents Pakistan with opportunities to strengthen its strategic and economic ties with the US through effective implementation of the Afghan peace process.
The Trump administration had a more critical view of China’s infrastructure and development initiatives in Pakistan, such as the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC). For Pakistan, as for so many other countries, Sino-US competition is in itself of little practical concern when compared to other pressing needs, such as economic development, climate change, public health and security.

Though Biden is expected to continue supporting India against China, the US is also expected to take steps to restore its role as a strategic balancer between Pakistan and India. For a better US-Pakistan relationship, Washington has to accept China’s development initiatives in Pakistan without making Sino-Pakistan relations a zero-sum game.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In fact, it will be important for Pakistan to convince Washington that its
engagement with CPEC should not preclude collaboration with the US. With a progressive Pakistan-US relationship, private investments in key economic spheres can also flourish.

Pakistan has had great success in developing mutually beneficial relationships with predominantly Muslim nations, especially the Arab countries of the Middle East. It has maintained a balanced policy in the region.
Pakistan’s next important area of converging interest with Biden’s administration will be the new Middle East, being shaped by the Abraham Accords.

In practical terms, the Biden administration will need to reconsider US policy towards Pakistan. Both countries need to find areas of meaningful cooperation, and ways to move beyond a transactional mode to more strategic relations.

The Kashmir conflict

The Kashmir conflict

Pakistan has substantial leverage to cooperate with Biden’s team. Relations that have for a long time been dominated by strategic concerns can be more productive if they are redefined carefully. By finding common ground, they can work to achieve larger goals such as on climate change, health care, education and
infrastructure development
Pakistan needs to galvanise its intellectual community and diaspora in the US to maintain a balanced policy. The US is Pakistan’s top export destination, but these trade gains have yet to be realised. Pakistan’s strategic location will help prompt security, trade and commerce in the coming years.
Gulshan Rafiq is a research associate at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). She holds an MSc and MPhil degree in defence and strategic studies from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad

Biden administrations regional strategy should keep Pakistan in consideration

After decades of dysfunction, a sigh of relief was on the horizon. The US-Afghan peace process was on its stage of finalization after a tiring, exhaustive yet profitable period. For the region, it is far from getting out of turmoil. It is a far-fetched idea as the Kashmir valley burns with an intensity that may burn the entire region if appropriate policies and islamophobia won’t be addressed.

An effective American presence is required. For all his misgivings, the outgoing US President, Donald Trump, tried in vain to bring India to the dialogue table. Trump is now out and a new sheriff is ruling the streets. Hopes and fears are attached with the new administration. This stems from the careful selection of words from Kamala Harris, Antony Blinken, and General (retired) Lloyd Austin relating to the region. It shows the concern and mindfulness of the new regime about the matter at hand.

Kashmir and treatment of Muslims in the BJP led regime has caught the attention of Biden and his team. At the Washington DCbased Hudson Institute, Secretary Blinken expressed his concerns relating to the situation in the South Asian region especially Kashmir. During the presidential campaign, Blinken asserted that the Biden Administration intends to raise the issue of Kashmir with India. US’s concerns on recent Indian legislature that discriminates against Muslims is also on their agenda.

They have criticized the actions taken by the Indian government particularly relating to freedom of movement and freedom of speech in Kashmir, and about the laws on citizenship. He shared the Biden administration’s plan to discuss Kashmir and other issues with India as pieces of evidence have surfaced that leave no space for ambiguity.

Biden himself has expressed his disapproval of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. During the presidential campaign was outspoken about the Kashmir issue and clearly stated it in the “Joe Biden’s Agenda for Muslim Americans”. The campaign expressed several outrages against the Muslim community and increasing islamophobia around the world. The brutalities faced by humans of Kashmir and persecution of Rohingyas were brought to light. Promise to take necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir was made.

The new administration wants to promote the ideology of peace and harmony, and the region will be under consideration as at least 20 South Asian-Americans have been appointed to the key positions in president Joe Biden’s administration.

However, the list has excluded some Indian-Americans, Sonal Shah, and Amit Jani, who had worked on the Biden campaign, allegedly due to their Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) links. According to a report, those with RSS-BJP links have not found a place in Biden’s team because secular Indian-American organizations have urged his transition team to keep such individuals on the sidelines.

Another key actor in the Biden presidency will be Ilhan Omar. He represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S, openly condemned the “Hindu nationalist project” by BJP. “At what point do we no longer share values with India? Are we waiting for the Muslims in Assam to be put in those camps?”

Biden administration accepted that they are aware of restrictions on arguments on opposing opinions and peaceful protest. Shutting communications and slowing the internet showed a weakened democracy, which was in notice of the Biden Administrations and they look forward to findinga solution to all unsolved human crises occurring against minorities.

The choice of advisors in Biden administration has been interesting and surprising to say the least. Not only have they inducted members from all opinions, but people who have first-hand experience of the region. Recent inductees include two Held Kashmir-born female experts (Sameera Fazili and Aisha Shah), bringing Kashmiris a glimmer of hope that they might now be felt better through receptive and sympathetic hearts in Washington, DC.

Sri Lankan American, Rohini Kosoglu, has been chosen as Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President, whereas Bangladeshi-American, Zayn Siddique, would be discharging duties as Senior Adviser to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

Earlier in December, Pakistani American Ali Zaidiwas chosen as Deputy National Climate Adviser. He had played a key role in drafting and implementing the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and helped negotiate the Paris Climate Agreement. Zaidi will be working directly under former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been appointed US President’s Special Envoy for Climate.

Laterin January, the President Biden inducted a second Pakistani American, Salman Ahmed into his Foreign Policy team. He would be serving the Biden administration as Director of Policy Planning in the US State Department. Ahmedhad previously served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, was chief of staff of the US Mission to the United Nations. He had also directly supported the-then US Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations with Russia on Syria between 2013 and 2016. He was the co-chair of the International Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva.

With the administration having a varied pool of different ethnicities, it signals they will be casting a wide net in international politics. For Pakistan, Islamabad hopes for acknowledgment of its efforts in regional stability and fight against terrorism. The signals received have been positive as American Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “Pakistan was ‘an essential partner’ in the Afghan peace process. (Islamabad) Has promised to deter regional actors from spoiling the peace of the region if he was confirmed as the secretary of defense.”

Austin has stated on an account that “continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues.”He also admits to the blood and sweat hard work of Pakistan to take steps to take out anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammed.

Biden must have an agenda for Pakistan, as the country is in the middle of south Asian regional politics. Over the last couple of years, Islamabad has been successful in dropping its grade from 3rd to 7th in the global terror index. This has come about after continuous efforts to keep its borders and those of its neighbors safe from terrorism. Islamabad has worked hard to protect its integrity in eyes of the world and is emerging as a leader in the Muslim community around the globe.

It is a fact that Islamabad has never played the role of an ally to any country during the Afghan-US peace dialogues and has shown continuous efforts to eradicate all the terrorism possible. But the unrest in the region has made it difficult to achieve the desired results. The bipartisan role played needs to be lauded and the country assisted in its march towards regional stability.

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