File photo | Pakistan PM Imran Khan with Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa | Facebook/ImranKhanOfficial
File photo | Pakistan PM Imran Khan with Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa | Facebook/ImranKhanOfficial
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The inauguration of the Biden administration has predictably generated a heated debate on America’s likely policy concerning Pakistan. Any analysis of the emerging scenario must be firmly grounded in strategic realities rather than in wishful thinking.

The end of the Cold War had already reduced Pakistan’s importance in America’s strategic calculations. On top of that, there is now growing strategic divergence between Pakistan and the US because of the development of the Indo-US partnership as an essential element of the US policy of containment of China, on the one hand, and the deepening cooperation between Pakistan and China on the other. CPEC is a prime example of growing Pakistan-China cooperation.

Additional factors which will influence US policy on Pakistan are India’s economic weight with a GDP of $2.6 trillion, its increasing global political influence as evidenced by its current membership of the UN Security Council and G20, and its position as the world’s largest democracy despite the setbacks caused by the rise of Hindutva under Narendra Modi. By way of comparison, Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits with a GDP of only $285 billion, there is political instability and its journey as a functioning democracy has been interrupted several times in the past. Still, as a nuclear power with considerable military strength, Pakistan’s importance in strengthening regional peace and stability cannot be ignored.

The Biden administration’s initial policy statements clearly show that it is determined to continue the policy of developing a strategic partnership with India in pursuit of the policy of containment of China. It is worth underscoring that the US policy of developing strategic cooperation with India had been supported by the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. Unsurprisingly, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at his confirmation hearing stated that America’s relations with India were “a bipartisan success story”. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at his confirmation hearing assured Congress that the Biden administration would “operationalise India’s Major Defence Partner status”.


Also read: As Biden shapes a new US policy, China changes tack on ties with India


The increased presence of Americans of Indian origin in powerful positions in the Biden administration may reinforce the trend of deepening cooperation between the two countries, especially in military, nuclear and high-tech areas thereby upsetting further the strategic balance in South Asia to Pakistan’s disadvantage. In short, India is likely to be given the central role in the US Indo-Pacific strategy which will also involve the strengthening of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad involving India, Japan, US and Australia as affirmed by President Joe Biden in his recent telephone conversation with Prime Minister Modi.

Consequently, it would be unrealistic to expect that under Biden, the US would resume large-scale economic and military assistance to Pakistan or would be helpful in the search for a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The harsh reality is that America lacks both the will and the capacity to influence India’s position on the Kashmir dispute. It will, therefore, continue paying lip service to the need for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute while being supportive of Indian hegemonic designs in South Asia.

However, there are several areas in which the two countries can engage in mutually beneficial cooperation. Currently, the Biden administration is reviewing the deal signed by the US and the Afghan Taliban in February last year aimed at American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, an end to terrorism originating from Afghanistan, and a peace settlement between the Taliban and the Kabul regime. It is in the mutual interest of Pakistan and the US to promote the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue for achieving these goals. The same can be said about Pakistan-US cooperation for combating terrorism from which both countries have suffered grievously. Pakistan would be well advised to remove ambiguities in its policies concerning this issue.

Other areas in which Pakistan and the US can engage in mutually beneficial cooperation are the prevention of nuclear proliferation, promotion of peace and stability in South Asia, the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean regions, climate change, promotion of human rights and strengthening of bilateral cooperation in economic, commercial, technical and cultural fields. The test of Pakistan’s diplomacy would lie in its ability to reconcile the elements of divergence and cooperation into a coherent whole mindful of both the potential and limitations of the Pakistan-US relationship.

The writer is a retired ambassador and author. He is president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs. Views are personal.

This article was first published by Dawn.

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11 Comments Share Your Views

11 COMMENTS

  1. Makes a lot of sense. A cautionary tale for India that is cosying up to the USA. However, I do not agree with the writer on his analysis of Pakistan’s relationship with China. In geopolitics, there are no permanent friends and by putting all our eggs in one basket (China’s) we are playing Russian roulette without national interest. Pakistan should look at a more transactional relationship with China rather than out and out friendship.

    • Pakistan was an exception. So many countries benefited by cosying upto the USA. Western Europe and Japan immediately after WW2. Much of South East Asia and China also owe their prosperity to good relations with China. For Pakistan objective of good relations with the USA was to get at it’s adversary India with military aid and not really to benefit itself economically. Hopefully India’s relationship with the USA will be like that with the countries which prospered.

  2. I wonder what is the thinking behind Shekhar “Coup” ta sharing such an illogical rabid article about India from Pakistan’s Dawn on an Indian news platform.

  3. Rise if Hindutva? What is this rubbish? Hindutva is a word coined by jihadi islamists hell bent on destroying India. India has been a Sanatan Dharma (Hindu) Rashtra for millennia, and will remain so for ever. Hindutva is the soul of Bharat. Islamic Pakistan and Islamic Bangladesh have finished off their Hindus whereas % of Muslims in India is increasing because they breed like rats.

    • @Anon: Islamic terrorists sponsoring their Quranic Jihad and killing Christians, Hindus/Sikhs since eons are blaming Hindus & India!! Of course @The Print, loyal to it’s anti Hindu ideology promotes these terrorists & their news while calling it unbiased journalism!! Wonder WHY these so called liberals don’t settle down in their Islamic paradise long with their Jihadi ilk in India!!

    • Wasn’t Indian land divided because of Islamic fundamentalists that they now call Pak/Bangladesh?? Even after the division, they continued with their Islamic terror against Hindus & Sikhs in those Jihadi lands!!

      So WHY were Muslims still kept in India is baffling to anyone with grey cells & loyalty towards this land & splendid civilization!!

  4. Upon reading this article (especially the part of “just settlement of Kashmir issue in accordance with UNSC resolution”) I felt an immediate urge to say “I strongly disagree with you, Mr. Husain”. Since I am not in a debate with him, had to hold myself back.

    I only wonder why a new age publication like The Print should publish an age old lie of India hindering the UNSC resolution. The history is clear on who invaded the independent kingdom of J&K and occupied it and the present is clear on who is recently planing on making PoK and Gilgit & Baltistan a province of their own.

    Everything else in the article can be considered a journalistic opinion, but the above part is pure propaganda against India.

    • Only In India you can publish anti Hindu & anti India propaganda and call it journalism!! Foreign press copy-pasting is everywhere without any domestic analysis!! This too is called journalism & not slavery!!

      In USA, the so called beacon of freedom, no one dares to write venom against majority Christians or against America while the American president takes oath on the bible!!

      Let Indian PM too take oath on the Gita as only civilizations can make & promote nations & constitutions!!

  5. Many of the views given by the retired Pakistani Ambassador have been repeated ad nauseam . Many things have changed over the decades and it would serve Pakistan better if the Powers that lord over Pakistan see the problems more pragmatically.

  6. “despite the setbacks caused by the rise of Hindutva under Narendra Modi”…what are those setbacks Mr. JAVID HUSAIN?

    • @Govind: The setback is that these Islamic terrorists have to slow down their killing spree against Hindu/Sikhs in India & Pakistan/Bangladesh!!

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