US China Pak

US Places China, Pak On List Of Religious Freedom Violators

The Biden administration has placed China, Pakistan, and 10 others on a list of countries that “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” during 2022.

“Today, I am announcing designations against Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“I am also placing Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom,” he added.

The United States has also designated nine groups including the Taliban, and the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group, as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

“I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern,” he said.

Noting that governments and non-state actors harass and kill individuals on account of their beliefs, Blinken said the United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.

“In some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain. These actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace,” he said.

The US Secretary of State said the announcement of these designations is in keeping with US values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe.

He said that the United States will continue to carefully monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.

“We will also regularly engage countries about our concerns regarding limitations on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of whether those countries have been designated,” he added. (ANI)

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Modi Biden G20 summit

Modi, Biden Share Warm Hug At Bali

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday shared a warm hug as the G20 Summit began in Bali.

In a photo shared by the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders are seen shaking hands
“PM @narendramodi and @POTUS @JoeBideninteract during the @g20org Summit in Bali. G20 working session on Food and Energy Security,” Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.

The two leaders will participate in the G20 working session on Food and Energy Security today.

PM Modi also greeted and shook hands with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Earlier today, PM Modi was greeted by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo at the venue.

Upon his arrival in Bali on Sunday night, PM Modi received a traditional welcome.

“Grateful to the Indian community for the warm welcome in Bali!” the prime minister tweeted.

The 17th edition of the G20 Summit will extensively focus on key issues of global concern under the theme of ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’.

As part of the G20 Summit Agenda- Three working sessions will be held on food and energy security, health, and digital transformation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a meeting with leaders of several other participating countries on the sidelines of the summit and review the progress in India’s bilateral relations with them.

According to the departure statement of the PM released by the Prime Minister’s Office, “India’s G20 Presidency will be grounded in the theme ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or ‘One Earth One Family One Future’, which underlines the message of equitable growth and shared future for all.”

Indonesia’s President will hand over the G20 Presidency to India at the closing ceremony of the Bali summit. India will officially assume the G20 Presidency from December 1, 2022. PM Modi will extend personal invitations to G20 members and other invitees at the G20 summit scheduled to be held in India in 2023. (ANI)

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Biden says US Work With UK Govt

Biden: US Will Continue To Work With UK Govt

Shortly after British Prime Minister Lizz Truss resigned from office, US President Joe Biden on Thursday said he will continue close cooperation with the UK government to meet the global challenges that the two nations face.

“I thank Prime Minister Liz Truss for her partnership on a range of issues including holding Russia accountable for its war against Ukraine. We will continue our close cooperation with the U.K. government as we work together to meet the global challenges our nations face,” Biden tweeted.
On Thursday, Liz Truss’ resignation as UK Prime Minister threw the country into political turmoil and left it scrambling for a stable government, as the opposition reiterated its demand for a general election.

Truss became the shortest-serving British PM after she stepped down, stating that she recognises she “cannot deliver the mandate” on which she was elected. Truss said she would step aside for a new leader to be chosen within the next week. “

“I recognize though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party,” she added.

Following Truss’ resignation, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer issued a scathing statement that ripped into the Conservative Party and called for a general election.

“After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. We need a general election now,” he said and added that “Each one of these crises was made in Downing Street but paid for by the British public. Each one has left our country weaker and worse off.”

Truss stepping down was preceded by the sacking of UK Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng and the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman tendered her resignation.

Liz only remained in power for 45 days after succeeding Boris Johnson last month. (ANI)

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Pak To Summon Blome, Issues Demarche Over Biden’s Statement

The Pakistan government is set to summon US Ambassador Donald Blome for an official demarche over American President Joe Biden’s statement regarding the country’s nuclear capability, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said.

While addressing the news conference, Bilawal said, “We will call their ambassador and issue a demarche, but I don’t think this was an official function […] it wasn’t an address to the parliament or an interview,” according to Dawn
This statement came after US President Biden, at a Democratic congressional campaign committee reception, said that Pakistan may be “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as the country has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”, according to the statement released by the White House.

“And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” the White House quoted Biden as saying.

The remarks on Pakistan were made while Biden was talking about US foreign policy with regard to China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Biden concluded by saying he considered Pakistan to be the most dangerous country in the world.

“This is a guy (Xi Jinping) who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems. How do we handle that? How do we handle that relative to what’s going on in Russia? And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” said Biden, as quoted in a White House press release of his remarks at the Democratic party event.

Addressing the conference at the Bilawal House in Karachi today, the foreign minister said that Pakistan’s nuclear assets “meet each and every international standard in accordance with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as far as security and safety is concerned”.

“I am surprised by the remarks of President Biden […] I believe this is exactly the sort of misunderstanding that is created when there is a lack of engagement.”

Bilawal said that Pakistan had embarked on a “journey of engagement” and just marked the 75th anniversary of bilateral engagements with the US, according to Dawn.

“If this was such a concern, I imagine it would’ve been raised in that meeting with me, I believe that we have just started our journey of engagement and we will have many more opportunities to engage with the US and address any concerns and misconceptions they might have to this specific question,” Bilawal said as quoted by Dawn.

Although, Bilawal said that he doesn’t believe it negatively impacts the relations between Pakistan and the US. but still, Biden’s remarks could be seen as a setback to the Shehbaz Sharif government’s bid to improve ties with the US. (ANI)

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Dangerous Nations: Biden’s Candid Comment On Pakistan

In perhaps the most candid statement made against it, US President Joe Biden described Pakistan as “one of the most dangerous nations” in the world which holds “nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”

The US President made these remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Reception in Los Angeles (California), during which he berated both China and Russia.
The remarks on Pakistan were made while Biden was talking about US foreign policy with regard to China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Biden concluded by saying he considered Pakistan to be the most dangerous country in the world.

“This is a guy (Xi Jinping) who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems. How do we handle that? How do we handle that relative to what’s going on in Russia? And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” said Biden, as quoted in a White House press release of his remarks at the Democratic party event.

Biden’s remarks could be seen as a setback to the Shehbaz Sharif government’s bid to improve ties with the US.

At the event, Biden said there were enormous opportunities for the US to change the dynamic in the second quarter of the 21st century.

“So, folks, there’s a lot going on. A lot going on. But there are also enormous opportunities for the United States to change the dynamic in the second quarter of the 21st century,” the US president said.

These comments come two days after the release of the US National Security Strategy. The 48-page document makes no reference to Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration released the Congress-mandated key policy document, underlining the threat posed to the US by both China and Russia.

The National Security Strategy states that China and Russia who earlier this year announced a “no-limits partnership” are increasingly aligned with each other but the challenges they pose are distinct.

“We will prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia,” it adds.

The policy document contends that competition with China is most pronounced in the Indo-Pacific, but it is also increasingly global.

The US Security Strategy highlighted that the next ten years will be a decisive decade of competition with China.

On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the document says Moscow’s “imperialist foreign policy” culminated “in a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to topple its government and bring it under Russian control.” (ANI)

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Counter China's Growing Influence

US Make Efforts To Counter China’s Growing Influence In Pacific

To counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific, the United States has dialed up every effort and made attempts that would reduce the possibility of other countries in the Pacific region getting into China’s orbit, Global Strat View reported.

Recently, US president Joe Biden held a summit with 14 Pacific Island where they issued an 11-point Declaration on US-Pacific Partnership, declaring that they shared a vision for a region where “democracy will be able to flourish.”
“We share a vision for a resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, where individuals can reach their potential, the environment can thrive, and democracy will be able to flourish,” read the declaration on US-Pacific Partnership.

Washington’s plan to deepen diplomatic engagement with the Pacific comes as concerns about China’s expanding influence in the region.

During the summit, US President said, “The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security and the security of the Pacific islands.”

According to the Global, Strat View citing Derek Grossman, an analyst with the global think tank RAND Corporation, earlier, Washington had not been that active in strengthening the ties with Pacific countries. Still, the latest summit shows that the US is changing its outlook, especially in the wake of China’s expanding influence in the region.

“We are still all working from, generally speaking, the same sheet of music, which is we don’t want the Chinese establishing a military foothold in the region, and we don’t want them corrupting the institutions of the region,” he said as quoted by Global Strat View.

Biden announced that Pacific island nations will receive around USD 810 million in funds under the ‘Pacific Partnership Strategy.

The US is working at a micro level in order to remain strong in the Pacific region. This involves financial investments, defense cooperation, police training, COVID assistance, and climate support.

One of the highlights of the summit is the participation from the Solomon Islands as it has recently, in May, met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

In the recent summit, Solomon Island opposed China’s reference to US Pacific Partnership Declaration. It had previously denied US and UK ships access, resulting from Beijing’s influence. All this has added to the US concerns about the Solomon Islands became a China ally, reported Global Strat View. (ANI)

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Biden’s West Asia Tour – Who Had The Last Laugh?

American President Joe Biden was on a four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, his first trip to the Middle East since taking office last year, with a lot of expectations about resetting the ties with Saudi Arabia and also giving a new direction to US policies in the Middle East.

The visit started with meetings in Israel to expand security ties and discuss Iranian belligerence in the region. He next went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he attempted to reassure regional leaders – and the rest of the world – that his administration remains committed to actively engaging in the Middle East and counter any Russian or Chinese plans to expand their geopolitical influence.

US-Saudi Arab Relations

Coming in the backdrop of the continuing Russia-Ukraine war and spiralling global oil prices, the visit was also seen as a rapprochement by the U.S. President to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), whom he blamed for the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and thus pave the way for softening the Saudi stance on increased oil production.

However, the manner in which the two leaders greeted each other with a fist bump has been criticised both by fellow Democrats and Republicans, due to its undiplomatic nature and also as a middle ground to thaw the ice, perhaps on the advice of their key lieutenants.

Also the version given by Biden and Saudis as to whether the President admonished MbS seem to vary, thus indicating that the President was ready to give up his old stance for the Saudi agreement to increase its oil production, though ultimately he got no such assurance.

The meetings in Jeddah largely seemed to go along with the planned reset of the U.S. relationship with the kingdom, and Biden announced several new areas of cooperation aimed at reshaping US-Saudi relations.

ALSO READ: Ukraine War Will Script New World Order

However, the President did strike an optimistic note that regional leaders would soon take action given that the next OPEC meeting will take place in early August, after his parley with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders in Riyadh.

US-Iran Ties

Biden is also under pressure to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region, and during the visit he made a commitment to the US playing a large role in the Middle East for years to come.

In Israel, Biden repeatedly vowed to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon and said he believed diplomacy remained the best avenue to keep Tehran from obtaining one.

Biden has pushed for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal, which former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2018, as he faces increasing pressure from key Middle East allies to produce a plan to contain Iran. But hopes appear to be fading that a deal will materialise, and the President acknowledged that the U.S. is “not going to wait forever” for a response from Iranian leadership.

US-Israel Relations

America’s relationship with Israel has also been strained in recent years. Obama and former Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu shared a strained relationship over Palestine, and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran also soured the relations.

But the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to re-implement the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with warnings over Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank, have further complicated U.S. -Israeli relations again.

In addition, US is also worried about the growing Russian and Chinese influence in the region. Iran has cosied-up to Russia significantly in recent years and the Chinese have made themselves more useful both to the Saudis and Emiratis in defence and trade sectors.

The New Approach

His critics say that Biden to an extent continued with the old American baggage. And if he really wants to rest the American foreign policy for West Asia and its Arab allies, it will have to adopt a more proactive and less preaching stance with a new perspective, too. Biden himself said during the trip that he continues to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve a new outcome.

But to achieve that outcome, he’ll have to pursue soft-diplomacy also. Additionally, the U.S.  should try to give-up the mentality to solve every problem or conflict with military means and tactics, instead it should try to focus and see the alternative opportunities available to help the people of the Middle East achieve greater freedom and prosperity which they desire.

For this, the renewed American focus should prioritise its interests through better security management for itself and its allies. Ensuring that terrorist threats from the Arab world should remain a focus of U.S. engagement in the region.

Further, it should focus on economic welfare of the region. The Middle East’s energy resources remain critical to the global economy. In addition, the U.S. should try to foster lasting economic ties with emerging centres of innovation in the region.

Additionally, it should focus on values and rights, which the United States supports i.e. religious freedom, women’s rights, and freedom of expression. These should be promoted through its soft diplomacy or public diplomacy channels. There is a huge aspiration amongst the people of the region to fill-up the chasm between what is available and what they wish for, ensuring dignity and prosperity for all.

At the same time, it should try to engage more with the young generation amongst the Arabs, the 13th edition of the Arab Youth Survey found that over 90% of Saudi youth, who form nearly two-thirds of the country’s population, see the U.S. as an ally. This should be its target audience

It should focus on boosting bilateral ties in new areas such as tourism, information technology, and clean energy and focus less on energy sector.

It should launch joint initiatives on human security challenges such as in the health sector, economic security, human rights, and climate change. It should engage in renewed diplomatic efforts to end conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Try to contain and engage Iran with diplomacy backed by a balanced regional security strategy. Renewed diplomacy with Iran must include America’s regional security partners in order to produce lasting results. It should strive for greater regional integration with renewed and inclusive diplomacy on the Arab-Israeli front, too.

Overall, the visit failed to accomplish what Biden wanted to achieve in the region, and for any success the U.S. will have to fully recalibrate its policy towards the Middle East, Iran and Israel in the short-term for long-term gains and keeping the Russians and Chinese at bay in the region.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

The Hill Biden Has To Climb

And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow, we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one…
– Excerpt from The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman

Gorman, female Black poet and activist, 22, read her passionate and disturbing poem, first penned on January 6, and then in a flash of sudden energy after the Capitol Hill occupation by Right-wing Trump supporters, at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. She follows Elizabeth Alexander and Maya Angelou, who recited at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Amanda has painted a kaleidoscopic rainbow in response to the collective trauma of a polarised and divided nation. One American media organisation, sensing the emotional mood, has observed that Biden need not be flamboyant at all, or choose to be in the headlines for all the ‘wrong’ reasons like Donald Trump, but he should just do his work with a quiet, stoic and steadfast resilience, even if he is branded ‘boring’. And that is what the new president seems to be doing.

In one of his first speeches to his White House team, he categorically said: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot… On the spot. No ifs or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”

He has been frank and honest. To his political aides he confessed that “I’m going to make mistakes. When I make them, I’ll acknowledge them and I’ll tell you and I’ll need your help to help me correct them…We’re not going to walk away, we’re going to take responsibility.”

So, what has been missing in a big way in the last four years was quickly rectified by some far-reaching decisions by the new President soon after he took office. These orders will have an eventful and long-term national and global impact in a world which is still struggling to cope with the pessimistic consequences of the pandemic.

ALSO READ: Can America Be United Again?

Among other important decisions, Biden overturned several retrograde and sectarian orders by Trump like withdrawal from the WHO and the ban on citizens of certain Muslim countries from entering American soil. He brought back expert virologist Anthony Fauci, who defied Trump’s juvenile denial of the deadly virus and was side-lined. Besides, his multi-cultural cabinet is full of various colours, creeds, and inherited histories from across the pluralist spectrum of America, with representation of secular and liberal experts, including talented women professionals.

Some from Indian origin have been taken in his team in key positions. Interestingly, two individuals in the Biden campaign, with alleged overseas RSS links, have not been accommodated. It should be noted that several eminent American citizens had petitioned Biden to be careful of individuals aligned with the BJP-RSS and their overseas allies in the US, who had followed the unprecedented call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Howdy Modi rally in Houston in July 2020, with Trump as the chief guest: Abki baar Trump sarkar.

Witness certain path-breaking executive orders passed by Biden soon after he assumed office:

*Ties with WHO reinstated. A delegation led by Fauci will attend the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board to be held soon.

*Social distancing and compulsory mask for all in federal buildings and territory. A ‘100 Days Masking’ campaign to propagate masks across America. Indeed, Trump and his top aides and followers refused to wear masks.

*Trump tried to block the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, under which immigrants brought to the US as children are protected. Biden passed an order to “preserve and fortify” DACA.

*The notorious wall along the Mexican border has been scrapped.

*The ‘Muslim ban’ has been revoked. Trump stopped citizens of certain Muslim and African countries from flying into America.

*The Trump administration’s move to prevent the census from counting undocumented immigrants has been revoked. Harsh immigration enforcement policies have been stopped.

*America has decided to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change within 30 days.

Among other significant decisions, the controversial $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, which was opposed by indigenous communities and environmentalists, and was backed by Trump, has been cancelled. This has yet again triggered the protracted struggle in Dakota by indigenous communities of Standing Rock and Native Americans which peaked in 2016. They want the pipeline to be scrapped because it will destroy their homeland ecology.

Biden has asked the government to reinterpret the country’s Civil Rights Act so as to stop discrimination based on gender, colour, sex, religion and ethnicity. Trump administration’s 1776 Commission report, which aimed to promote ‘patriotic education’ in schools has been overruled. Historians had dubbed it as partisan political propaganda.

ALSO READ: Welcome Back America, But…

Vermont Senator and socialist Bernie Sanders, with a huge following among the millennials, has been made the head of the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders has been campaigning for radical health reforms to help ordinary citizens and low-income groups, students’ loan waiver, big financial Covid relief for millions who have been rendered jobless, hungry, or, are facing acute economic crisis, among other radical reforms. He has been backed by young and progressive democrats like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.

The Vermont senator told the CNN that the Democrat-controlled federal government cannot wait “months and months” to pacify hardline Republicans who favour austerity measures. If Republicans refuse to back Biden’s $1.9 trillion opening relief proposal, Sanders has asserted that he is ready to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a coronavirus aid package and legislation.

In terms of foreign policy there are unconfirmed reports that the arms deals with Saudi Arabia might be frozen. This has been welcomed by some Democrats in the light of the abysmal humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He will surely rethink the Iran sanctions, which Obama overruled, and Trump brought back. While Jerusalem might stay as the new Israeli capital, the peace process might be restarted. On China, there will certainly be more strategic dialogue, and less rhetoric and posturing.

Meanwhile, Biden has also reversed another retrograde ban by Trump — transgender Americans can now join the military. The order said that all “qualified Americans can serve their country in uniform”.

Besides, as what is seen as a direct fall-out of the new freedom in the air, striking workers in Bronx, New York, captured national attention and got solid support from local communities. Around 1,400 members of the Teamsters Local 202 union walked off their jobs on January 17, demanding a $1 raise. They said that they were in the font-lines against all odds in difficult circumstances to feed New Yorkers during the pandemic, with the Hunts Point Market supplying about 60 per cent of the local supplies. After a one-week strike, they got the hike, and more.

Hence, truly, Amanda’s poem of infinite hope might not be only pure passion. In New York in this cold, it might be just one dollar or a bit more for the working classes, but her inspired poem is literally translating on the streets of America.

Can America Be United Again?

Donald Trump has lost, but he is not going anywhere and so soon, something that large sections of the mainstream media and half of American voters would want so desperately. He has got massive electoral support, almost 70 million plus votes, half of the American vote bank. He might be openly a racist, an overt and tacit patron of Rightwing fringe groups of white supremacism, a misogynist, sexist and an anti-immigrant, apart from being rather crass in his public conduct.

He might have decisively botched up the Covid emergency in his total denial in public and acceptance in private, as disclosed by a top journalist with whom he shared his views; and by denying masks and the universal danger of this pandemic, he might be singularly responsible for the spread of the epidemic. Almost 250,000 Americans have fallen to the pandemic.

And, yet, Trump is refusing to give way to the new president-elect, Joe Biden and his team, even in carving out an emergency response to the pandemic. On the contrary, he continues to call the poll results a fraud, something even some of his aides in the White House and many Republican leaders are not ready to accept.

Biden, in his victory speech, has emphasised that he stands for not a red or blue America but a United America, which is quite in contrast to the sectarian ‘ultra nationalist’ Trump slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’, which unconsciously reminds of the colonial era of White supremacy, the bloody and genocidal subjugation of the indigenous inhabitants and natives of this vast land by colonisers and missionaries, and the slave trade of Blacks and later their continued brutalisation even in the post-War scenario by the rabid Ku Klux Klan virus of white supremacy.

Biden especially said that he stands for all of America, including those who did not vote for him, acknowledging the tragic and bitter realism of a socially divided and psychology wounded country, which might take years to overcome the fissures and hostilities entrenched after the short Trump era of four years.

Indeed, as the The New Yorker reported, Biden asked for an end to “this grim era of demonization…” “He stressed that, in choosing him, a majority of Americans opted to “marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope”— the forces of everything good, reliable, and familiar that can help us shake the feeling of living in an unstable and unrelentingly dark reality. Biden promised to “restore the soul of America”.

ALSO READ: Welcome Back America, But…

Surely, America is in a crisis. Despite the upset victory of the Democrats in certain red states like Arizona and Georgia, and the close margin of the final vote count, the vast white countryside, especially the uneducated white working class, both men and women, seemed to have gone along with Trump. So has, surprisingly, a sizeable number of Hispanics, especially Cubans who hate communists and who got sold yet again on the Trump slogan that socialists and the Left are out to take over America. Trump has repeatedly drummed it in the social media that the Left has taken over the Democrats and America is going Left. So much so, some Democrats too have done a kind of campaign that it is because of the progressives led by Bernie Sanders, and others like Rep Alexandria Ocasi0-Cortez and ‘the squad’ of four radical, progressive and emerging women leaders, among others, that the Biden campaign suffered in some states.

Reports from the ground affirm that nothing can be further from the truth, and that it was basically the Sanders, and progressives’ campaign, relentless and dogged, and which went on from the day Trump won the elections in the first instance defeating Hillary Clinton (though she got more votes), and the Black Lives Matter movement, massive and widespread across class, colour and race, apart from the larger rainbow coalition which swung it for Biden and Kamala Harris.

This coalition belongs to educated people, youngsters and students, the millennials, the LGBT collectives, the liberal White, enlightened and feminist women, immigrants and Asians, and almost the entire Black population, who consolidated the huge and unprecedented mass of vote which overwhelmed the support base of Trump, who just did not anticipate the huge ground level work, the door to door outreach, the voters’ enrolment and postal ballot campaign, and the idea of a new, egalitarian and secular America without the racial and sectarian divide. Native Indians campaigned and voted overwhelmingly against Trump. This was against the crass language and conduct displayed in the Trump era, where unbridled capitalism of monopolists, despite the pandemic, mass unemployment, collective uncertainty, depression and anxiety, stalked the American landscape.

The progressives’ agenda will mark the new America in more ways than one. People are desperate for a health sector which is not so shamelessly loaded in favour of the rich, which reaches out to the most ordinary Americans; they want higher education for the vast majority of the working class, across colour, they want social security and financial relief, jobs and homes for the homeless, and a society where the police and law enforcement agencies are not so brazenly biased and partisan. They also want accountability for the rich and super rich, a level-playing field, a new economic order, and an end to the rise and rise of the capitalists who seem to have flourished in an unprecedented manner amidst the despair and distress of the deadly pandemic.

ALSO READ: The Future Of America

Surely, amidst the millennials, this is a trend which has been trending since Socialist Bernie Sanders first entered the fray, while being blocked again and again by the big money lobbies, including Barack Obama himself. The Barack-Biden twosome has a bad record on several counts: mass deportations of immigrants, the total insensitivity towards the working class, health and education, and of course, the unbridled killings by the drones in conflict zones across the middle-east and the borders of Afghanistan, and the death and destruction in Syria and Yemen, which continues. At least, in the Trump era, no new wars waged by America in the rest of the world, though his record on Palestine and Iran has been grossly unimaginative and crude.

Stacey Abrams, for instance, a prominent black leader of Georgia, who had earlier run for the post of Governor, has been credited for leading a whole-hearted and successful grassroots campaign for Biden, overcoming the formidable Trump support base in Georgia. Writes The Daily Beast: “The Biden campaign placed Georgia as one of just three reach states that they sought to turn blue, hoping to expand the party’s old electoral map to defeat President Donald Trump. The fact that Georgia is narrowly trending in that direction at the top of the ticket is, in part, thanks to the work Abrams put in place during her first governor run in 2018, where voter suppression contributed to her close loss to unseat (Republican) Kemp. She has since escalated her organizing and mobilizing efforts with Fair Fight, the group she founded in the aftermath of that election, and offered a strong closing pitch to voters to “make a plan to vote early” leading up to November 3.”

So will America heal itself and become united in these edgy days to come… The answer, as the Bob Dylan song says, is once again blowin’ in the wind.

Difficult For Pak To Sell Anti-India Narrative To Biden

The main focus of Pakistan as US President-elect Joe Biden gears up to take over in January 2021 does not appear to be a comprehensive reset of relations after the trauma of the President Donald Trump’s years but how to ensure that Indo-US relations do not continue to deepen.

For this, Pakistan will try and build on Biden’s regular visits to Pakistan since the 1990s, his old connections with and knowledge of Pakistan as also his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and of Barack Obama’s White House. Biden, after all, was the original architect of the Kerry-Lugar bill and the policy of engagement with the civil government to support a sustainable long-term relationship with Pakistan.

The key strand in its strategy is to stress the necessity of Indo-Pakistan equivalence and the need for the US to adopt a balanced and equitable approach towards both countries. While Pakistan’s quest for parity with India is as old as a partition of the sub-continent, most recently in an interview with Der Spiegel, Imran Khan had reiterated that Pakistan expected even-handed treatment from the US with respect to India.

Another key component, signalling its own insecurities, is to warn Biden about India. Thus, Imran Khan in his interview said: ‘The US thinks India will contain China, which is a completely flawed premise. India is a threat to its neighbours, to China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and to us.’ Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Munir Akram in an interview called the US-India strategic partnership a “wrong choice,” and advised that improving ties with Pakistan could prove extremely beneficial for the incoming administration.

An adjunct to this theme is to try and chip away at a central pillar of Indo-US relationship – shared democratic values– by stressing that such values were fast dissipating in India; that India was becoming exclusivist, violating democracy and human rights and finally, the Imran Khan rant of India becoming an extremist and fascist country under the BJP government.

The greatest expectation, of course, is on Kashmir–that Biden will robustly support ‘American’ values that means a greater emphasis on democracy, human rights and freedom of expression all around the world. Translated into action Pakistan is hoping that this would mean that Biden as president would strongly address the issue of the removal of the special status of the J&K, factor in adherence to human rights and castigate India for the alleged repression there.

Much has also been made of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s statement in October 2019 that: ‘We have to remind Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping track of the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.’ Pakistan hopes that this would be translated into political action.

Another thread of concern is Washington’s China policy. Pakistan is hoping that under Biden the US would find a way of competing with China without conflict. This could ensure Pakistan not becoming totally dependent on China and the US still finding some use for it.

Pakistan is concerned that if Biden goes the Trump way in dealing with China, it would have an adverse impact on it, on its need for international financial institutions like the IMF, on trying to extricate itself from the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and especially on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Of concern to Pakistan are the views of Kamala Harris on the human rights violations of the Uighurs. In an interview, she had said: ‘China’s abysmal human rights record must feature prominently in our policy toward the country. We can’t ignore China’s mass detention of more than a million Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps” in the Xinjiang region, or its widespread abuse of surveillance for political and religious repression.’ Were the Biden administration to make this an important element in its China policy, Imran Khan would no longer be able to feign ignorance about the Uighur problem as he has done in the past.

Pakistan would also be looking closely at the Afghanistan policy of Biden. It would look to capitalise on what then-Vice President Joe Biden had told Afghan President Karzai in 2008 that Pakistan was 50 times more important than Afghanistan for the US. However, the Biden administration is bound to look at the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020 and especially credible reports of the Taliban continuing to maintain ties with Al Qaeda, the unacceptable levels of violence and the stalled intra-Afghan dialogue. This will entail increased pressure on Pakistan to deliver on its promises.

Well aware that the new administration will be absorbed in internal issues, at least in the short term, Pakistan has devised its own strategy to get it to focus on the subcontinent. This includes, for the moment, activating the LoC with caliber-escalation firepower and producing a dossier accusing India of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. Both are geared to put out the message that the region is a nuclear flashpoint that the incoming administration should not ignore.

However, the reality check for Pakistan is that Indo-US relations are deep and broad-based, something that was underlined by the recent signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). What Pakistan would find uncomfortable is that in 2008, Biden garnered the support of other Democrats to back the India-US civil nuclear deal. Moreover, in an interview in 2006 as a Senator, Biden had stated: ‘My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States. If that occurs, the world will be safer.’ He now has the opportunity to translate his dream into reality.

A policy paper released during the presidential campaign noted that the Biden administration would place a high priority on strengthening the Indo-US relationship by pushing India to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, continuing co-operation on terrorism, climate change, health and trade, working towards a multi-fold increase in bilateral trade. The paper recalled the lead role played by Biden, both as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Vice President in the Obama administration, in systematically deepening strategic engagement, people-to-people ties, and collaboration with India on global challenges.

Ultimately, Pakistan would have to accept that the Pak-US relations have been and are likely to remain transactional due to lack of substantive content. The US will remain engaged on issues like the safety of Pak nuclear weapons and terrorism but Afghanistan apart, there is very little that Pakistan has to offer positively to interest the US.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Imran Khan had criticized the award given by the then PPP government to Biden in 2009 for his role in pressuring President Musharraf to give up power and return Pakistan to democracy.

Pakistan will also have a hard time selling an anti-India narrative simply because of its own track record whether about ‘missing persons’, the ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan, the daylight murders of Ahmadis and those perceived to have indulged in blasphemy, the rampant abduction and forced conversion of minor Hindu, Christian and Sikh girls as also the appalling persecution of the media under Imran Khan. Its charges against India on terrorism would be dismissed out of hand like similar dossiers were dismissed in 2015.

The Biden presidency is also likely to see the return of the traditional and mainstream foreign policy establishment with area specialists providing crucial policy inputs, something absent under President Trump. They will be aware of Pakistan’s past duplicity of supporting the Taliban while pretending to be a US ally against terrorism. This will not bode well for Pakistan.

Hence, despite all its efforts, it is unlikely that Pakistan would be able to succeed in trying to prevent the further strengthening of the Indo-US relationship under Biden. At best, Pakistan could look to nudge the US to restore the policy of aid that had taken a hit under the Trump presidency and hope that the deepening New Delhi-Washington relationship would not further enhance the disparity with India.

(The author is a Member of the National Security Advisory Board. Views are personal – ANI)