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Explained Ideas: Why President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to weigh in on Jammu and Kashmir

Pakistan's greatest success in recent months has been in targeting liberal American opinion that has become critical of the constitutional changes in Kashmir, writes C Raja Mohan.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 19, 2020 11:27:02 am
us elections, joe biden us president elect, donald trump joe biden us elections, US voting system,President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take charge of America on January 20, Pakistan hopes to reset bilateral relations with the US and draw Washington into the Kashmir dispute with India. Mobilising America on Kashmir has always been a major preoccupation for Pakistan. It has become an obsession after India altered the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir last year.

How might it all play out in Biden’s America?

Express Illustration: C R Sasikumar

According to C Raja Mohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, Biden is more familiar with the history of US-Pakistan relations than his recent predecessors at the White House. As a long term Senator and Vice-President, Biden has been engaged with Pakistan-related issues for many years. Pakistan honoured Biden in 2008 with the second highest civilian hon- our, Hilal-e-Pakistan.

After the Cold War, America’s interest in resolving the Kashmir question acquired much intensity in the first term of President Bill Clinton (1993-97) and the first year of Barack Obama (2009-10). On both occasions, intensive Indian political and diplomatic efforts dampened Washington’s Kashmir activism.

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“Biden is unlikely to have much bandwidth left for Kashmir as he copes with a range of domestic and foreign policy challenges,” states Mohan. The website set up last week on Biden’s transition plans lists four urgent priorities — the Covid crisis, racial inequality, economic security and climate change.

Also read | Explained Ideas: What the progressives of the US don’t understand about their country

But Pakistan is not giving up. In his tweet congratulating Biden and Harris last week, Imran Khan offered to work with the new administration on “peace in Afghanistan and the region”. Pakistan’s greatest success in recent months has been in targeting liberal American opinion that has become critical of the state of Indian democracy, the constitutional changes in Kashmir, and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

It has had some impact on the Democratic Party. Biden’s rival for Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, told the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America in September 2019 that he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in Kashmir and demanded that Washington take bold steps in support of a UN effort to resolve the issue.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

In the end, though, the Democratic Party’s election platform said nothing on either Kashmir or Pakistan; it managed a bald sentence on investing in the strategic partnership with India.

“What you say in the campaign is usually not what you do when in government,” writes Mohan.

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