Joe Biden has won the race to the White House, becoming the 46th President of the United States. He has secured 290 votes surpassing 270 majority votes needed to win the elections. Soon after the development, Biden stated in a tweet “America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country. The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.” Biden will assume office on 20th January, 2021, as the oldest President in US’ history, at 78.
Biden has been in the politics for 50 years, first as the youngest US senator as well as the longest serving senator of Delaware. He was elected twice, as Vice President to President Obama from 2008 to 2016. Biden’s long-serving political career also includes two unsuccessful presidential bids.
Biden’s history with Pakistan
Joe Biden, unlike Donald Trump, has a long history with Pakistan. Biden has always encouraged diplomatic and strategic relations with Pakistan. As a US senator and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), he initiated the Enhancement Partnership Act in 2008 which became the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act in 2009. It sought to strengthen bilateral relations between US and Pakistan, focused on Pakistan’s long-term economic development and to facilitate regional peace with Pakistan’s neighboring countries. The Act authorized non-military aid worth billions to Pakistan each year from 2010 to 2014. Biden has visited Pakistan a few times in his 50 years long political career and has met Pakistan’s former Prime Ministers, Yousaf Raza Gillani and Nawaz Sharif and former President, Asif Ali Zardari.
Being well versed with Pakistan’s regional relations with its neighboring countries, he has spoken about the Kashmir issue and stability in Afghanistan on several international forums. To recognize his efforts, he was awarded with Pakistan’s second highest civilian honor ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’ (Crescent of Pakistan).
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During his visit to Pakistan in 2011, Biden stated “Our relationship, in my view and the view of President Obama, is absolutely vital to the interest of the United States, and I believe you believe it is vital to the Pakistani interest as well”, while addressing to the media. He added, “There are those who accuse the United States of violating your sovereignty, I respectfully suggest that it is the extremists who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and corrupt its good name”. He also said that along with Pakistani leaders, United States would work “to restore and strengthen sovereignty in those areas of the country where the extremists had violated it”, “a long-term, enduring partnership” is the only productive way forward for Pakistan and the United States, he asserted.
“For those who believe our policies favor India and seek to weaken or even dismantle this great country, you know and your colleagues know that is dead wrong. We want what you want, a strong, stable, prosperous, democratic Pakistan at peace with itself and its neighbors, including India. We want that not just for your sake, but we wish your success because its in our own interest”, stated Biden.
However, while on one hand, Biden had always been friendly with Pakistan and advocated its regional stability and economic prosperity, on the other hand, it was also him who labelled Pakistan as “potentially the most dangerous country in the world” in 2007. It was the same Biden who during his during Vice Presidential debate in 2008 asserted “I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it going to come from Al Qaeda planning in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Not to forget the US drone strikes on Pakistan which Biden supervised during the Obama-Biden administration increased by 631 per cent, reported Dawn.
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Biden on Afghanistan
With regards to the Afghan issue, Biden had asserted during a democratic debate this year “We can prevent the US from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing airbases and insisting the Pakistani provide bases for us,” said Biden, reported the New York Post. It has also been reported that during his visit to Afghanistan as US Vice President, as a response to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s demands to pressurize Pakistan so it withdraws its support for Afghan Taliban, Biden said “Pakistan is fifty times more important to the United States than Afghanistan”.
Unlike Trump’s ‘America first’ policies, Biden believes in global diplomacy. It is possible he reiterates a peace deal between Afghan forces and Taliban before withdrawing US troops, so it does not disrupt regional stability for Pakistan. Without long-term peace negotiations, US withdrawal would do more harm than good.
Biden on Kashmir
Now that Biden has been elected the new President of the United States, his stance on Kashmir would strengthen Pakistan’s position on Kashmir in the international realm. He has been vocal about the Kashmir issue previously, and Kamala Harris as his Vice President now, can reiterate their position and pressurize India to halt the human rights violations and atrocities in Kashmir. On Biden’s campaign website, he has spoken in favor of Kashmiris in India in a policy paper named “Agenda for Muslim American community”. He said “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet, weaken democracy”.
The paper further adds “Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law. These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.” It adds “Joe also understands the pain Muslim-Americans feel towards what’s happening in Muslim-majority countries and countries with significant Muslim populations”.
What it means for Pakistan
Trump’s isolationist policies had deteriorated US-Pakistan relations. Now with Biden in the office, one could hope for a cooperative approach towards Pakistan. Biden’s preference of global diplomacy and cooperation could pave way for a better strategic relations, and as he had asserted in the past during his visits to Pakistan, “a long-term, enduring partnership”. While speaking to the Express Tribune, Michael Kugelman said “Pakistan and the region stand to gain from a Biden presidency that would seek to regain leadership on the global stage.”
However, one mustn’t forget the US drone strikes in eight Muslim majority countries orchestrated by Obama-Biden administration either. Nonetheless, analysts suggest that Biden is the lesser evil of the two and would be better than Trump ever was for Pakistan. Some also suggest that it would make no difference on US’ position on Pakistan. “The Trump-era contempt for diplomacy will end if Biden is reelected. But we shouldn’t raise the bar of expectation”, told Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general and political and defense analyst to Express Tribune. Biden, however, is expected to be more accommodating towards Pakistan than Trump was. It is only after January 20, 2021, when Biden will assume office, will we get to know what the four years of Biden presidency would mean for Pakistan.