Muhammad Sharreh Qazi l

‘America loves India, America respects India and America will always be a faithful and loyal friend to the Indian people.’

President Donald J. Trump: Joint Address with Prime Minister Nirendra Modi: ‘Namaste Trump’, Ahmedabad (2020)

The above quoted remark is enough to make one understand how for America, a state always has to qualify from being a mere member in the international community to being a strategic partner in terms of projection of its national interest. Though such remarks are also sometimes meant for domestic consumption yet, as being indicative of foreign policy intent, such remarks are also seen in context to what they imply. Now with Trump administration living its last, it intends to leave behind something not as serious domestically but probably peculiar for South Asia. Kamala Harris being nominated as Vice President was welcomed in India not just for the sake of it but also for how it could be a potential avenue for New Delhi to explore ever since it decided to go beyond ‘Howdy Modi’. For Islamabad, such jubilation on the other side usually does not bode well, apprehensively and chronologically speaking.

To Pakistan, engaging itself with the Taliban as a means to facilitating Afghan Peace Process serves a dual purpose; it enables Pakistan to stabilize its relationship with the US and it allows Pakistan to consolidate its position in regional geostrategic matrix. Besides being able to keep its strategic relationship comfortable with Beijing, Pakistan also somehow intends not to disturb or disrupt its equilibrium with America due to a longstanding interaction. The situation beyond Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has, however, changed a lot for Pakistan beyond geostrategy and in the realm of global politics and perception management.

Pakistan has been consistently struggling to keep itself away from being blacklisted and this surely has taken an immense toll on its capabilities. The difficulty has not been domestic adherence to demands and requirements posed by FATF but by a rapidly changing geopolitical canvas in and beyond South Asia. America opened up, among other things, avenues of cooperation with New Delhi on information, intelligence, technology and capacity sharing while Middle Eastern politics distanced itself away from Islamabad, following American interests right into India. Even Afghanistan and Iran have somehow kept their options open in comprehensively cooperating with India. Despite keeping their distance in certain crucial matters of national security. For Pakistan, South Asia since CPEC and BRI is nothing short of a nightmare for diplomacy.

An uphill task would be to maintain commitment to FATF regulations all the while witnessing regional security and stability administering severe shocks to Pakistan’s commitment of restraint in escalation. Indian conventional adventurism has already spiraled disproportionately and New Delhi’s newfound momentum is accelerating as it continues to receive international (read American) assurances. For Pakistan, particularly the foreign office, being able to steer international perception and manage equilibrium with a non-cooperating India is a daunting task to say the least. Beyond Afghanistan, Pakistan already had little to reconcile with America as long as Trump was in office but with Joe Biden, things might not be as imagined.

Before Trump’s exodus from the White House, certain changes are made which perhaps resonate more than any President-elect would hope for. Reducing troop presence in Afghanistan before any substantive groundwork is completed makes Biden’s job difficult; either completely withdraw and leave a security void or keep troops at a minimum and risk derailing the peace process.

For Pakistan, however, decisions affecting Kabul are not as crucial as the one taken during Trump’s shakedown of Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and appointment of Kashyap ‘Kash’ Patel as Chief of Staff to American Acting Secretary of Defense. To Pakistan, Kash Patel might not just be the only problem because Biden intends to keep a few Indian-Americans in his prospective cabinet among other nominees. Now, these facts might not resonate enough ripples in America’s domestic pursuits but to South Asia and its apprehensive nature, Patel is someone who is already a hazard in the making.

With Patel focusing his expertise in intelligence and counterterrorism, holding an office of influence might mean something to Islamabad’s pursuits towards FATF. Patel has also been one involved in facilitating Trump in his Ukraine Scandal and such actions certainly do not inspire confidence and neutrality towards international political adventures.

For Pakistan despite seeing America as a fairly independent state in terms of domestic pressures, Trump administration has surely created immense apprehensions. The Biden-Trump schism is perhaps more worrying when seen through a lens of America’s strategic entanglement with India in restricting China from enhancing its current geostrategic posture.

In such a situation, having India somehow capitalizing on its diaspora means something because Pakistani diaspora has not been able to achieve a similar representation in America’s decision-making process. Whether such a concern is genuine or not does require debating American decision-making and role of ‘influencers’; a debate renewed by Trump’s ascension to presidency and social compartmentalization that followed.

Maybe all this is a hypothetical assumption not based on any logical evidence that America’s actions are in fact exerted through social groups pressuring for it or perhaps Kamala Harris and other Indian expatriates on key positions might just be more American and less Indian when it comes to South Asia. To Pakistan however, having to see this hypothesis as a mere hypothesis might not be so simple, considering it already is under immense pressure fueled by strategic necessities of global competitors.

Afghan Peace Process is constantly being tested by security meltdowns in and around Kabul, global political competitiveness has already made the world around Pakistan sufficiently hostile for hosting CPEC, FATF still haunts Islamabad of immense economic and political reparations and an emboldened India is already on its way to test Pakistan’s patience towards escalating conflicts. Having America tilt further towards New Delhi would be a resounding chasm between Pakistan and America; one that just might end up derailing decades worth of American investment in its assumed role of global stewardship.

‘I have had lobbyists, and I have had some very good ones. They could do anything.’

Donald J. Trump

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are writer’s own deliberations and are neither indicative nor suggestive to his organization’s/employer’s opinions.

The author is a lecturer at School of Integrated Social Sciences, University of Lahore, PhD. Scholar for International Relations at University of the Punjab and author of the book titled ‘Escalation Patterns in South Asia: Future of Credible Minimum Deterrence’. Views expressed in the article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Information Corridor.

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