Thursday, November 26, 2020

Should Pakistan be optimistic about Biden presidency?

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The overall nature of Pak-US relationship has been transitional and usually uncertain due to the highs and lows in their interest divergence. Despite severe diplomatic jolts in their bilateral relations both countries closely engaged to mitigate rising mistrust and extreme exclusiveness from both sides. Pakistan traditionally opted a US centric policy from the last 70’s years, almost seven decades. For Pakistan the way towards Washington passes through a thorny bumpy road.

The new Biden administration will likely continue Trump’s core South Asia policies; US withdrawal from Afghanistan, India’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific region and countering the rise of mighty China. Hence there is less likelihood of any fundamental Change in US policy in the region.The Biden presidency will beat the same drum to materialize US Geo-strategic interest in the region.

Read more: Is Biden the new hope of Pakistan, Iran?

Afghanistan: a decisive factor in Pak-US relations

Afghanistan quagmire is the only major factor in Pak-US relations, which will determine the future discourse of both countries. After facing rhetoric Trump’s excoriation for alleged ‘lies and deceit’ and curbing of US military assistance, Pakistan finds close convergence of interest with the US on Afghanistan imbroglio that has marched both countries to bring Taliban on the negotiating table.

The era of romanticism between Pakistan and U.S. is over. Now we are in the era of issues-oriented scenario based on mutually advantageous consideration.

Pakistan has rightly earned from Doha spirit and needs more concrete efforts to sustain smooth integrity among different fractions involved in the Afghan mess. Pakistan shares hundreds of kilometers long border, along with influential upper hand on Taliban leadership. There are still some roadblocks to navigate before any substantive talks. Wider enthusiasm has been fixed in spiraling- up frustration.

Post withdrawal Afghanistan

The Afghan government and Taliban are not willing to cooperate, where peace does not arise from the action of one party that is already marred by extreme violence. However there is also a risk once the US withdrawal is completed, US might diminish it is genuine reconciliation process in a post ‘ withdrawal Afghanistan’. This will bring more catastrophes for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, an immediate neighboring country.

Biden’s maximum pressure policy towards Islamabad will likely be continued to prevent any possible involvement of Pakistan in its Afghanistan’s ‘strategic depth’ policy.

Read more: Joe Biden’s position on Afghanistan

Pak-India rivalry and US-China rising antagonism

The new Biden presidency will focus on the deteriorating security situation in South Asia. Owing to the China-US confrontation and looming security hostility between China and India with the ongoing military standoff in the disputed Himalayas mountainous region. Pak-India bilateral relations are at their worst – as cross fires continue at the Line of Control and incendiary provocative statements from the Indian politicians and military leadership. With the inadequacy of existing confidence-building measures and the non-availability of other risk reduction measures, the chance of a severe military clash has increased manifold.

The new Biden administration will likely continue Trump’s core South Asia policies; US withdrawal from Afghanistan, India’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific region and countering the rise of mighty China.

Abrogation of Article 730 and India’s preferential treatment will inevitably push Pakistan to the Chinese court to strengthen its strategic alliance with China leading to more regional polarization. India being a counter balance partner against China in the Indo Pacific region will likely compel the Biden presidency to please Indian stance over Kashmir issue. Biden will follow the US role as a balancer between Pakistan and India to avoid any inadvertent escalation in the region. U.S containment policy towards China and Pakistan’s economic corridor, according to Indo-US skepticism, passes through a disputed region will also trigger Pak-US relations to sore.

Read more: Will Biden seek de-escalation with America’s rivals?

Terrorism and nuclear issues in Pak-US relations 

In case Afghanistan peace talks collapse Pakistan is likely to face maximum pressure under Biden presidency. The ‘Do more’ mantra and Pakistan being a scapegoat front line state against war on terror will be the outermost target of Biden administration to coerce Pakistan diplomatically. Blame game will be the part of reciprocal mistrust.

After facing rhetoric Trump’s excoriation for alleged ‘lies and deceit’ and curbing of US military assistance, Pakistan finds close convergence of interest with the US on Afghanistan imbroglio that has marched both countries to bring Taliban on the negotiating table.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development especially tactical nuclear weapons and sea-based nuclear deterrence is another bedrock in Pak-US relations. Biden has constantly criticized Pakistan over its advancing nuclear and missile program. Pak-China civil nuclear partnership and Chinese strategic tilt towards Islamabad to cement strong defence ties will also detest Biden’s Pakistan strategy. Pakistan hardly striving to escape from the FATF blacklist, a looming threat to tarnish Pakistani image in the comity of nations.

Era of romanticism is over

Considering Biden’s similar policies on regional concerns in South Asia, it is likely to be equivalent to the Trump approach. The new administration’s policy towards the China Pakistan economic corridor is not yet clear. There is no cogent reason to be optimistic about any major change in the current pattern of Pak-U.S relations, beyond some gratifying statement to calm down Pakistan.

In the contemporary geo-strategic environment Pakistan should not look for any extraordinary favor from the Biden presidency. The era of romanticism between Pakistan and U.S. is over. Now we are in the era of issues-oriented scenario based on mutually advantageous consideration. But traditionally push and hug trends would co exist in Pak- United States relations.

Read more: Biden: New Man in the White House; Pakistan’s way forward? 

Qaiser Mahmood is a graduate in international relations from International Islamic University Islamabad with specialization in geo-strategic affairs. He is a freelance writer who has published several articles in different national and international magazines newspapers. He is currently working as a researcher member with Diplomatic Insight, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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