Biden’s K-Bidding: Will There Be Change In Himalayan Discourse?

Joe Biden

LAST time when Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama made a vocal entry in White House, the lingering Himalayan dispute looked set for settlement.

But years later, as the strife still hangs like a Damocles’ sword over the region, the likes of Riyaz Malik, a noted journalist in Srinagar, have only grown weary of Uncle Sam’s political will to put the South Asia’s ‘nuke trigger’ to rest.

“Just like his predecessor, Trump’s successor Joe Biden can’t make any drastic changes in US’s South Asia policy,” Malik, who edits the reputed Urdu daily of Srinagar, Kashmir Uzma, said.

But yes, the scribe continued, Biden can strike some balance in the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan—the two-nuke-armoured neighbours currently at loggerheads—by pushing them for talks on Kashmir.

“While I don’t see major changes happening in Kashmir, Biden can restore some confidence in this region by encouraging Indo-Pak dialogue,” the editor said.

During Biden’s tenure, Malik believes, Kashmiris will be eagerly batting for the ‘improved’ Indo-Pak relations for ending the ongoing tensions in their homeland.

Even Pakistan seems counting on its “friend”—whom they bestowed with the second-highest civilian honour, ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’, in 2008.

While Islamabad enjoys cordial relations with Biden, an old diplomat, the country reportedly faced troubles with Donald Trump due to the corporate honcho’s “uncertain style of politics”.

Biden’s Kashmir Say

In Joe Biden’s advent as 46th president of the United States, many not only see a ‘sense of normalcy’ in the polarized world order, but also shift in the Kashmir discourse.

Only in June this year, Biden had criticized New Delhi’s move to revoke special status of Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August 2019.

He compared the plight of Muslims in Kashmir with that of Rohingyas in Bangladesh and Uyghur Muslims in China.

“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir,” Biden said in a statement.

“Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weaken democracy.”

Buzz in Srinagar

In Srinagar, apart from lockdown-battered business community and anxious students, even political pundits believe that Biden’s liberal views and concern of human rights might bring some sense of relief for Kashmiris.

“Biden’s recent statements in favour of Kashmir might reflect his policies, but it will be determined by America’s geo-political interests,” Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a well-known political analyst, said.

Because of China’s direct involvement in the dispute, the professor argued, Kashmir may be the prime focus of the new administration in White House.

“I must say the ideology of Trump was closer to India-Israel axis as compared to others,” Prof. Hussain said. “We don’t know what will happen but Biden’s liberal thoughts might reflect his foreign policies.”

Change in Himalayan Discourse

Even Prof. Noor Baba, a Srinagar-based prominent political expert, believes that there’ll be a change in Kashmir discourse with Biden’s entry in ‘the most powerful office of the world’.

“Trump’s interests were narrow as he was not concerned about humanitarian and morality issues,” Prof. Baba said.

“On the other side, democrats like Biden have been always concerned about human rights issues. He’s likely to take this position again. In that respect it’s going to make a difference in Kashmir discourse as well.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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