ON January 21, the US President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will take the oath of office. This is a difficult time in American history. The country is still wrestling with Covid-19 pandemic, a struggling economy and political polarization following the president Trump’s refusal to concede the defeat. Trump even tried to overturn the democratic election and is accused of inciting a mob to storm the Capitol to keep Congress from validating Joe Biden’s win. The House of Representatives later started impeachment proceedings against Trump by formally charging him with inciting an insurrection. Trump thus became the first US president to be impeached twice in the US history. Soon after the impeachment vote Trump released a videotaped statement saying he condemned Capitol violence. Violence and vandalism, he said, had absolutely no place in the US and no place in his movement.
However, the Capitol siege, the bitterness of American election and Trump’s rightwing politics has deeply divided America and it won’t be easy for Biden to unite the country. That said, there are great hopes associated with Biden’s presidency. He is expected to restore America as the democratic beacon of the world. His government is also expected to end the policy of the US isolation followed in Trump years and re-engage with multilateral institutions to play a constructive role in global affairs. As for South Asia, the US policy looks set to nuance a bit and may be in some areas go through a conspicuous makeover. As for the US relations with India, and their growing closeness, this is unlikely to change.
On the other hand, the US-Pakistan relations have lost their old raison de’tere. China’s rise and expanding clout together with India’s importance as a regional counterweight has redrawn the US priorities in the region. Biden’s administration could be beneficial to India on many counts. For example, unlike with Trump, a trade agreement with the US may be easier to work out. Also on immigration and HIB visas the path could be smoother. Tech companies both in the US and India will get much-needed relief if the visa issue is cleared.
Many observers also expect some accommodation of Pakistan in the new US administration. In 2008, Pakistan had conferred Biden with the second highest civilian honor, ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’. Joe Biden and Senator Richard Lugar were behind the proposal to bring $ 1.5 billion non-military aid to Pakistan. Biden will also want to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but he’ll be a steadier hand. Here’s hoping that unlike Trump whose approach was transactional in nature, Biden administration takes a more integrated view of the regional situation in his dealings. This alone will help promote the cause of regional peace than a disparate approach pursued by Trump.
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