November 8, 2020 is going to be written down as a historic day for USA as Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner for white house defeated Republican Donald Trump. The news has sent shockwaves across the globe, including Pakistan as the incumbent US president Trump who reflected the face of white supremacists has been voted out. Like all other capitals of the world, Islamabad is watching the new development with great curiousity and is chalking out its strategies to adapt to the change in White House.
Biden, unlike Trump, has been very loyal to his party since his first days in the politics. President Trump kept switching his allegiance to parties between Republic, Reform Party and Democrats until he joined Republic for the last time back in 2009. He is also a very experienced leader compared to Trump and is well versed on foreign policy and diplomacy with deep understanding of US national security interests. Before becoming Obama’s vise president, he had headed Senate Committee on Foreign Relations three times. His vice presidency had therefore added loads of executive experience for a relatively younger president Obama who got elected in 2009 for the first time.
US-Pakistan Relationship trajectory
While Biden’s victory is dramatic by all standards as it comes at a crucial juncture and this is projected to have dramatic ramifications for the US foreign policy, the relationship with Pakistan will not be affected dramatically. Pakistan is important to the US owing to the latter’s view of the former through the lens of national security, particularly in the context of the situation in Afghanistan. It won’t be a long shot to say the broad US policy towards Pakistan will continue to be shaped by the on-ground situation in Afghanistan.
Biden and Trump both share similar views with respect to US interests in Afghanistan. Donald Trump desperately wanted to end Afghan war and so does Joe Biden but he is less desperate in that sense. For Biden, a small presence of US troops in Afghanistan is essential for the long-term interests of US in the region. Now that he is in-charge of the power corridor in Washington, he is expected to make move in that regard. This is also in-line with Pakistan’s policy as Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his article for Washington Post in Septmeber, had asked USA to avoid hasty troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It is also noteworthy to mention that Biden, as the US Vice president, had told the then Afghan president Hamid Karzai that Pakistan was fifty times more important than Afghanistan to USA as the Afghan president had pushed for stricter foreign policy towards Pakistan. An expert on foreign affairs Hussain Nadim has aptly described the situation as a dilemma, saying that it is as much a good news as a bad news that the new US president has keen interest in Pakistan.
Situation in Afghanistan has changed a lot, especially as the US-Taliban peace efforts have reached new levels, thanks to the mediation by Pakistan and Qatar. The only way out for US, of a bloody war in Afghanistan that has brought tremendous suffering not only to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan but the US itself, including the loss of trillions of dollars to the US economy, is negotiations for peace. Taking peace in Afghanistan as a vital US interest, it is impossible for USA to ignore Pakistan’s role which has been decisive since decades. USA cannot afford Afghanistan war anymore and it cannot allow losing its influence in the region too. Any road to future decisions regarding Kabul passes through Islamabad and Joe Biden is well aware of the fact.
A dramatic comeback of Democrats in White House after Donald Trump’s racist and divisive rule shows that Biden’s emphasis on the values Democrats have always stood for will be greater than ever. During his campaign, he vowed to treat Islam as any other great religion in America to Muslims, which sure sky-rocketed his popularity among the American Muslims further against Trump. For many this was a rhetorical statement aimed at targeting Muslim voters. It very well was but this is a fact that the Democrats stand for secularism and pluralism much more than the Democrats. Joe Biden’s government will ensure minority rights in contrast to the Trump regime that had placed ‘Muslim Ban’ right in the first year of the government.
For Pakistan, as far as Kashmir dispute is concerned, Biden’s victory is a good news. Donald Trump and Narendra Modi managed to form a great relationship as both were populist leaders who capitalised on the politics of division and hatred, especially against the minorities. With Trump himself representing the right in US and selling hatred, it was out of question for him to raise voice against sheer human rights violations committed by the Indian forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. For Joe Biden, this is not going to be the case. Not only does the new president faces no restrictions as far as condemning India on Kashmir is concerned, he will be encouraged by his party to reflect the Democratic values, at least symbolically, with respect to Kashmir.
In August this year, Biden’s foreign policy advisor for his campaign Antony Blinken had put forward a statement regarding the human rights violations committed by India in the occupied Kashmir and had vowed that the issue will be raised with India if Biden became the US president. “We obviously have challenges now and real concerns, for example, about some of the actions the Indian government has taken, particularly in cracking down on freedom of movement and freedom of speech in Kashmir, and about some of the laws on citizenship,”, Bliken had stated.
Joe Biden will give a new shape to US foreign policy and is more likely to pursue reconciliation with Iran and China. A deal with Iran, that the Trump regime had called off, is likely to be negotiated under Biden regime. US reconcilation with Iran, China coupled with its way to make peace in Afghanistan through Pakistan can create a lot of problems for Narendra Modi in New Delhi, whose country had embarked on a very strong strategic partnership with Trump’s USA to contain China-Pakistan axis in the region.
The US-Pakistan relationship is largely defined by the US National security interests particularly with respect to the situation in Afghanistan. Though dramatic changes are not expected in the new president’s regime to the policy, there is more room for Pakistan to maneuver and play its cards right than it has been during Trump’s regime. Biden deeply understands US security interests, the role of Pakistan which can be both a good news and a bad news for Pakistan but is expected to play out in Pakistan’s favour in comparison to India’s. With a democrat president in white house, Pakistan can expect at least some US support on Kashmir dispute with respect to India’s brazen human rights violations, which will up the ante for Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign for Kashmir.
About The Author
Abubakar Farooqui is the brains behind Rationale 47. He Studied International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include National Security of Pakistan and International Politics, particularly of South Asia and Middle East. He tweets @AbubakarTweets
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.