Prospects of Pak-US ties under Joe Biden


Dr Muhammad Khan

IN the historical perspective, Pakistan-United States relationships have been uneven and mostly interest driven. There have been prominent institutional role in this over seven decades of bilateralism. During the Trump era, US institutions were undermined by the White House, resultantly; there came new low in the Pak-US relationship in first two years of President Donald Trump. Later, President Trump needed Pakistani support for a contract with Afghan Taliban, thus approached Pakistan to facilitate in bringing the Taliban on the negotiating table with US. Pakistan fully supported the process and finally an agreement was reached between US and Taliban on 29 February 2020. Pakistan is also supporting the reconciliation process for a likely deal between Afghan Government and the Taliban to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Since President Trump had less insight of Pakistan at the time of assumption of power in January 2017, therefore he was aggressive towards Pakistan, stopped all economic and military assistance of Pakistan including Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Moreover, he abruptly stopped the training of military and civil officers of Pakistan in US training institutions. Besides, he was discriminatory towards Pakistan on almost all aspects whereas accommodated Indian interests at; political, military and economic level. Compared to Trump, the President Elect, Joe Biden has a better know-how of Pakistan, its contributions against terrorism and the dedicated assistance it provided to US and NATO forces during drawdown from 2013-15.
As a former vice President, he should be forthcoming to acknowledge the unprecedented Pakistani sacrifices, during the prolonged war against terrorism. Based on his first-hand knowledge, Jeo Biden must accommodate Pakistani interests particularly in addressing its economic challenges. It is most likely that, President Elect Jeo Biden reverse the policies of President Trump on the issue of economic and military support of Pakistan, since he was instrumental in the sanction of $1.5 billion US aid annually, which was later stopped. Besides, the strong institutional linkages between Pakistani and US institutions which remained closely associated for decades must be restored straightway. It’s good for US too, to institutionally re-engage with pivotal states like Pakistan. President Trump had in fact isolated the US on many diplomatic and strategic aspects which immediately needs to rewired and made functional. Indeed, during Trump era US lost the space it had through institutional linkages with Pakistan. As a key state, Pakistani geopolitics is significant for the rising China as well as the resurgent Russia. Then, the sudden drift away from Pakistan, after drawdown of its forces from Afghanistan has proved that, U.S uses other states as per its own national interests and discard them once no longer required. This fact was recognized by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in 2011, during her visit to Pakistan. Joe Biden needs to address this aspect too.
On the Afghan issue, President Elect Jeo Biden must respect the US-Taliban Agreement of February 2020 which is only worth appreciating act of President Trump in his era. Honouring the agreement by Jeo Biden may allow US to bring peace in Afghanistan where 150 military of NATO and US could not subdue the Taliban. Pakistan would like that Jeo Biden to honour the agreement and let Afghan decide their future without any dictates from external powers. Besides, Afghan masses need peace, stability and economic prosperity in their own motherland. Instability in Afghanistan has seriously impacted Pakistan from four perspective; constant export of terrorism in Pakistan from Afghanistan, return of Afghan refugees, use of Afghan soil by India for its nefarious activities and a hostile relationship between both brotherly Muslim states. The current tense relationship between US and Iran are being viewed with lot of concern in Pakistan. Since Pakistan and Iran have common border of almost 959 kilometres which may get disturbed in the event of a conflict between Iran and US. Pakistan expects President Elect Jeo Biden to fully respect and restore the Iranian Nuclear deal between Iran, P-5+1. As a vice President, Jeo Biden was part of this deal which brokered by President Obama in 2015. Restoring the original deal and honouring it thereafter will promote a broader regional peace and balance of power in the Middle East from two aspects; a balance in Iran-US relations and stability in Iran-GCC relationship. President Trump created a rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia on one hand and within GCC (Qatar and Kingdom) on the other.
Within South Asia, Jeo Biden will have to keep a balance in US relations between Pakistan and India. The irrational US leaning towards India has seriously marginalized Pakistan in last two decades. Pakistan would like that; President Elect Jeo Biden must play a vital role towards resolution of long-awaited Kashmir dispute as per the wishes of its subjects. The massive human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOJK), the demographic changes being made by India in the occupied state must be stopped forthwith with the restoration of its pre August 5, 2019 status. In fact, without resolution of Kashmir dispute, there will be no peace in South Asia. While pursuing an independent foreign policy, Pakistan desires a dignified bilateral relationship between Islamabad and Washington. It would like US to respect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and acknowledgement of its heroic contributions against terrorism. Islamabad would also like that; it should not be dictated on the issues of its national interests, especially the project like Gwadar Port, CPEC, Kashmir and nuclear programme. Pakistan would also like US to facilitate its trade through market access of Pakistani goods without any discrimination. Indeed, as a pivotal state in Asia, Pakistani geopolitics can neither be ignored by major powers nor the regional states. Therefore, a win-win situation will be the best way forward in the bilateral relationship of Pakistan and United States.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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