Bridges or walls? — choose, Mr President

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Tee Shahid

WHAT a rollercoaster that was! The exhilarating 46th presidential elections of the United States have culminated. But, its shadows would always haunt the Americans; and, the world. Amongst the chapters of the US democratic history since its Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, this unnerving electoral episode would always tease & tickle America, its allies, and rivals, causing fears and cheers.

There goes January 20th. The 59th US presidential simple and solemn ceremony raised curtains for the groom of American democracy – for Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Now, Donald John Trump and Biden are at ease – in their own wits. Trump may be weighing his legacy; or, adjusting his posture for an Albatross in Donald National Golf Club, in hometown Florida. Biden must be contemplating his do-list until November 2025. No! Not a ‘do’ list rather an ‘undo’ one for misdoings of his predecessor. What this power transfer would fetch to the world? Most importantly, what not?

From Isolationism of Washington, through Wilson’s interventionism, Roosevelt’s pragmatism, Kennedy’s diplomacy, Reagan’s globalism, to Trumpian ‘America-first’ policy; a common thread was national interests. Sometimes, cosseting and toying with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and other time fighting the longest US war in history, War on Terror, terming them as terrorists; and ironically negotiating peace deals. Often stirring military leaders to power for own interests; and then, propagating regime changes, beating drums of liberal and democratic values. Nothing is permanent, but the US interests. Let’s see, what Mr. Biden stands for? Values, morality and principles he passionately avowed, or running into chronic vicious geostrategic engineering hatched in alleyways of CIA, FBI, Pentagon and State department.

Trump’s bumpy ride, turbulent election saga and Capitol Hill tragedy had shaken US aura, suffocated its democratic spirit, and caused serious damages to the world. Biden faces a tall challenge frowning him; a challenge of restoring American global leadership, reuniting the world divided in faith, ethnicity, regionalism, economy and political differences. The bleak future of immigrants, white racism, police reforms, global fight against COVID, Mr. President ought to address it all. For him, vital task is reuniting divided America; settling in stripes and stars. Americanism has shattered and its values tattered. As Biden took oath on the Holy Bible, the world peace was already under threat. Africa, Middle East, Far East and South Asia are hotspots of conflicts.

The US alliances became deviances, globalism turned isolationism and there is politics of hate, fear and division – crying for hope, care and integration. Biden promised to change that, within American borders and in the world.

Walking on self-centred and power-lusty nature, today’s world has modern-day Thucydides, Machiavellis and Rousseaus – in east and west. Trump’s blurriness and biasedness allowed peace-threatening lookalikes of India’s Modi, and Israel’s Netanyahu, to abuse values of liberty, equality and fraternity – the Americanism – in Indian occupied Kashmir, and Israel-annexed Palestine. Mr President, an ally must not be favoured above principles and morality, the inauguration day echoed. Time would tell whether Biden walks on the path, he strived for, or he did shy away.

Good news is the speedy undoing of Trump’s maverick policies. The first day of Biden saw the signing of a number of Executive Orders. Rejoining World Health Organization (WHO), cessation of further construction and removal of discriminatory travel bans on certain Muslim countries predict blooms of spring. Well done, Captain America. Returning to the Paris Climate Agreement, reflect the sanity for the good of humanity. Reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran, which is very likely, would bring stability in not only South Asia and the Middle East, but would also cause soothing ripples for the whole world. As Biden said, he would restore alliances and engage with the world, US-Europe normalization of ties and effective engagement with Russia and North Korea would entitle him for the nobility of peace.

The new US Administration would seek a rejuvenated relationship with Pakistan, for joint efforts of peace and stability in Afghanistan in view of the US-Taliban peace deal 2020. Biden must capitalize on it. Since the South Asian strategy recognizes India’s strategic interest in a stable and developing Afghanistan, the US appears very much likely to continue promoting Indian role in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s long-term political stability and socio-economic development would be the aim the US would look for, no matter how. The indo-US strategic partnership would prevail.

The US geopolitical and geo-economic antagonism with China and Pakistan-China strategic partnership are divergent. China-India rivalry vis-à-vis Indo-US partnership is another slant on Pakistan-USA relationship. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) so far taste bitter for both India and the US. It is a test for Mr. Biden, how he reshape the US views on BRI; and strike regional balance in South Asia, given the animosity amongst three nuclear powers concentrated in this part of the world. With Pakistan, the carrot and stick approach of the US may continue. Pakistan’s domestic political, societal, and economic challenges are too grave to negotiate and woo Pak-US amour from the position of strength.

One thing is certain. Mr Biden will see the world, through the prism of national interests of the US; which he should. However, if the US proclaims that absence of its global leadership would result in a global disorder, chaos and anarchy, Mr Biden should work to earn this claim. He can restore it if he acts for the good of the world as Captain America, Batman or Spiderman fights for. Americans and the world see light in Biden’s speech. He is to decide today whether he wants to be treated like his predecessor or leave legacies like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, or George Washington. Believing in the political sagacity of Mr President, an optimist would be inclined to believe that he would walk his talk. Judgments await. It is now up to him to fight or unite; be a wall to divide; or a bridge to unite – for humanity, peace and shared prosperity. Choose, Mr President..!

—The writer, a national security professional, writes on national security, foreign policy, international diplomacy and maritime affairs.

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