President Biden’s unwarranted remarks about Pakistan
President Joe Biden’s recent harsh comments in a speech at a reception of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that Pakistan may be "one of the most dangerous countries in the world that has nuclear weapons without any cohesion” took most people in Pakistan by surprise. Although Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto reacted in a restrained manner by trying to play it down, he said he was surprised by Biden’s statement and attributed it to a lack of engagement.
In fact, lately the general impression has been that after a long gap, the relationship between Pakistan and the US at a tactical level has been on the mend, and that its leadership was showing an interest in promoting trade and appreciating Pakistan’s efforts at dealing with terrorism and sharing valuable intelligence. Apparently, Pakistan’s intelligence input about Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda top leader and mastermind of the 9/11 hideout in Afghanistan, did contribute in the successful US drone strike.
So the question is, what was the reason behind Biden’s surprising outrage? Was it a delayed reaction to a prevailing anti-American sentiment that turned worse during former prime minister Imran Khan’s tenure? Or were his statements simply meant to do India’s bidding, and to reinforce Delhi’s policy of isolating Pakistan internationally?
The fact is that Pakistan’s support for China at the UN and other international forums irks Washington. And so it is all of the above, but mainly Pakistan’s close strategic, political and economic proximity to China that truly upsets President Biden.
Though America has been attempting to spread its idea of democracy around the world, it seems the instincts of global domination outweigh other ideological factors.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of the ambitious Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Gwadar Port holds strategic significance due to its prime location and substantial investments by China have contributed in upgrading its facilities to match world standards of docking. More significantly, if properly managed, the port will increase the economic and strategic interdependence between China and Pakistan to their mutual benefit. It will, however, take a few years before the potential of Gwadar can be fully utilized.
Though America has been attempting to spread its idea of democracy around the world, it seems the instincts of global domination outweigh other ideological factors. It is of course unrealistic to expect that major world powers would conduct foreign and security policies on altruistic grounds alone. Where the self-interest of major powers come into conflict, principles are swiftly set aside.
An undesirable coincidence is that US relations with several Muslim countries around the world are bitterly strained. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Afghanistan to name a few. The other side-effect of US hostility is that these governments are more authoritarian and insulated and that innocent people suffer the most. Afghanistan, with the Taliban government in power, is a prime example of brutal state power with women being the worst victims.
On Palestine, the US has always sided with Israel, looking the other way while it unjustly keeps annexing land belonging to Palestinians and frequently killing them when they stand up for their rights. Recently, Saudi-US relations are going through a difficult period with reference to oil production as well. Even India, a strong strategic partner of the US, has been purchasing oil from Russia. And Germany until recently was willing to continue purchasing gas from Russia.
US relations with Cuba, Venezuela and a few other South American and African countries have remained adverse for years. These developments indicate a gradual lessening of US hegemonic power.
Strained US-China relations and Washington’s policy to dampen mutual trade and impose restrictions are directed towards slowing down its growth. Although this measure will hurt the US and the global economy as well and increase the odds of a recession.
Russia has suffered a serious setback for its war with Ukraine and the myth of Russia’s military superiority is completely broken. Its standing in the Central Asian states has suffered badly too. According to Western sources, the recent border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were ignored by Russia despite being members of the Eurasia Collective Security Treaty Organization. This was primarily due to its preoccupation with Ukraine. Both these countries are looking up to China as its influence has increased in Eurasia.
For the last two years, the spread of COVID-19 in China has resulted in frequent lockdowns of major economic and commercial centers. But Beijing has the resilience and the political will to revive its economy and sustain its political and strategic clout to challenge American hegemony in the long term.
The interests of US and Pakistan have frequently been at variance and there has never been much consistency in their policies-- which is why President Biden’s statement while surprising, was not entirely unpredictable. But with China in the mix as a cohesive, all-weather partner for Pakistan, his outburst was in huge part, a manifestation of his frustration with this reality.
- Talat Masood is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
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