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November 5, 2020

Webinar reviews impact of US elections on South Asia

Islamabad

November 5, 2020

Islamabad : Dr Michael Kugelman, the Asia Programme Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, has said that US relations with India, its concerns related to counter-terrorism, and peace process in Afghanistan will continue to determine US foreign policy towards South Asia, notwithstanding the outcome of the election.

Dr Kugelman was addressing a webinar on “US Elections 2020: possible implications for the region” organised by Institute of Regional Studies here. Dr Kugelman said that US policy-makers would continue to find answers to questions, related to framing of Pak-US relations, amidst the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, managing Indo-US relations through an informal security cooperation arrangement and integrating its South Asia policy into its broader Asia policy.

However, Dr Kugelman was of the view that Biden administration might appoint some Obama administration officials who are not favourably inclined towards Pakistan to key positions once again, which might create some issues for smooth-sailing of Pak-US relations.

Former foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani observed that notwithstanding Pakistan’s exemplary relations with China, Pakistani policy-makers would like to maintain friendly relations with the US as well. He was of the view that Pakistani decision-makers would be more confident in pursuing better relations with the US under a Biden administration than a Trump administration, merely by way of long-term consistency if nothing else. He, nevertheless, emphasised the need for resumption of strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US.

Dr Hassan Abbas from National Defence University, Washington DC, said that post-election US policy towards South Asia needed to be viewed through an emerging global context, which comprises greater level of global competition with the emergence of China, the increased role of religion in geopolitics, the future of peace in Afghanistan, the decreasing centrality of oil in global economy diminishing the need for stability in the Middle East and the challenges to global cooperation emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He continued that if Joe Biden becomes the president of the US, he will pursue a more hands-on approach toward Pakistan. He added that while Biden would want better relations with India, his administration will be more vocal on human rights issues than the Trump administration.

Dr Abbas did not see Biden changing the Trump administration’s policy towards Afghanistan and stressed that the US could play a better role of crisis-manager between India and Pakistan if he got elected.

Dr Noman Omar Sattar, Professor at Air War College, Karachi, called managing India-Pakistan relations the biggest test for the new US administration.