Prospects of US-Pakistan Ties Under Biden Administration

Gulnar Abbasova Analysis 1 March 2021
Prospects of US-Pakistan Ties Under Biden Administration

Islamabad is likely to review its relations with Washington, as Joe Biden has kicked off his presidency. Pakistan has had good ties with Biden when he was vice-president of former President Barack Obama.

The relations between Pakistan and America have complex nature, and their relationships are extremely suffered over the years particularly during Trump era. The US declared India as its strategic ally in Afghanistan and is showed dissatisfaction on Pakistan’s counter terrorism performance and alleged that Pakistan is provided safe havens to groups those are involved in terrorists’ activities in Afghanistan.

Both states have their own strategic interests so there is divergence in their policies towards terrorism particularly in Afghanistan. Trump administration should keep in mind that India is traditional rival of Pakistan, any significant role given by US to India in Afghanistan will create security threat for Pakistan and US should try to address the Pakistan concerns in this regard.

U.S. work closely with Pakistan on a wide array of issues ranging from Afghanistan stabilization efforts to counterterrorism to energy to trade and investment. In terms of counterterrorism and internal security, Pakistan has taken some action against externally-focused militant groups and UN-designated terrorist organizations operating from its territory in accordance with its National Action Plan against terrorism and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public commitments. 

The United States continues to urge Pakistan to take decisive action against these groups, so it suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018, with certain narrow exceptions for U.S. national security interests.

The United States has been one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan and remains Pakistan’s largest export market. Trade relations between the United States and Pakistan continue to grow, and the U.S. government supports this relationship by funding reverse trade delegations, business conferences, technical assistance, and business outreach.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi thinks that the Biden administration would be guided by a "new approach and new policy guidelines".

Pakistan's role in the Afghan peace process, its relations with India and China, and terrorism will drive bilateral relations with the US in the next four years.

The Biden administration expect Islamabad to play a big role in Afghanistan, and to back the US in the Afghan peace process. In late January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted the "importance of continued US-Pakistan cooperation on the Afghan peace process". 

Meanwhile, there are concerns in Pakistan about the US administration’s plans to review the Trump-era peace pact signed with the Afghan Taliban.

Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri recalled that Pakistan and the US had cooperated for peace in Afghanistan. He noted the progress made in the peace process during last one year, including signing of the US-Taliban Agreement, start of the intra-Afghan negotiations and agreement on the rules and procedures for the talks. 

The spokesman said Pakistan has been calling on all sides for taking measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire. He, however, pointed out that the progress in this regard was linked to forward movement in the intra-Afghan negotiations.

The US-Pakistani ties have remained tense over the terrorism issue for years. Meanwhile, the new US Defense Chief Gen Lloyd J Austin referred to Pakistan’s steps against militant groups, saying that Washington will continue to press Pakistan not to allow its territory to be used as safe haven for militants. 

On 28 January, Pakistan Supreme Court decided to quash the conviction of Omar Saeed, the main suspect in the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. The move is also likely to have a bearing on the upcoming Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting, where it will review Pakistan’s steps against terror financing.

The Biden administration would also continue a close relationship with Pakistan’s arch-rival India. During the Obama administration, USA deepened cooperation on defense procurement and information sharing with India.  The Trump administration carried that forward including its concept of Indo-Pacific.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that US would also continue to work with India on concerns that the two countries share about terrorism. “There are many ways we can deepen that cooperation that successive administrations have put us on," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Kamala Harris criticized the Indian government’s discriminatory policies toward the country’s Muslim minority and its annexation of Kashmir in 2019. 

Herself of Indian descent, she called for international intervention “to remind Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world” soon after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special autonomous status and split it into two Union Territories in August 2019.