Biden’s South Asia Strategy or Continuity
Reference News Network reported on January 14th. Australia’s East Asia Forum website published a piece entitled “How is Biden’s South Asia Strategy Different from Trump?” by Michael Kugelman, Senior Researcher on South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in the United States.
Article, the article argues that while Biden may intend to undertake a full-out foreign policy restart, the possible South Asian policy adopted by the Biden administration will be an exception – a rarely significant continuity in comparison with the South Asian policies pursued by the Trump administration. The full text is excerpted as follows:
US President-elect Biden’s foreign policy will be very different from Donald Trump.
Biden vowed to restore U.S. leadership globally, value international diplomacy, repair America’s relations with allies, and advocate for democracy and human rights overseas.
His intention is to rescind the dramatic changes made by the Trump administration to U.S. foreign policy—which, in his view, are also harmful.
While Biden may intend to pursue a full-out foreign policy restart, the South Asian policy that the Biden administration may adopt will be an exception—a rarely showing considerable continuity compared with the South Asian policy pursued by the Trump administration.
Like Trump, Biden strongly supports the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
He also supported the United States’ partnership with Pakistan, which aims to ensure that Pakistan can help Afghanistan move forward the fragile peace process at its beginning.
Biden will also fully support the rapid development of the U.S.-India partnership, and the relationship has made great progress under Trump.
At the same time, as under Trump, other countries in South Asia will receive less strategic attention.
The attention received by these regions will mainly revolve around the competition between the United States and China.
Therefore, Biden is expected to change Washington’s current foreign policy, but not his current South Asian strategy.
But Biden will take a completely different approach from Trump’s foreign policy, which will have a considerable impact on South Asia and may even have some new consequences for the region – both good and bad.
First, Biden’s approach and tone of dealing with countries around the world will be more moderately friendly, coherent and predictable.
Washington’s important partnership with India does not need to worry about undue interference.
Washington’s delicate relationship with Pakistan will not be lost by sudden decisions, such as sudden decisions to cut security aid.
Secondly, Biden’s position on counter-terrorism is particularly tough.
Biden is expected to pressure the Taliban to threaten to suspend further withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan until the insurgents stop cooperating with al-Qaeda.
He may also increase pressure on Pakistan to shut down “terrorist networks against India” in its territory.
Moreover, Biden’s attitude toward the three major U.S. rivals — Iran, China and Russia — may be different from Trump, which will have a noticeable impact on South Asia.
Biden will seek to slightly improve the relationship between the United States and Iran and China, and his attitude towards Russia is stronger than that under Trump.
For New Delhi and Islamabad, even slight improvement in U.S.-Iran relations is a good thing, because they both value commercial cooperation with Tehran and hope that the United States will ease sanctions against Iran.
Pakistan will be pleased that the improvement of U.S.-China relations, and it hopes that its top ally, China, will have better relations with Washington.
For India, the increasing tension between the United States and Russia is an unwelcome development, because the friendship it has established with Moscow is one of several deep-rooted cruxes in the relationship between the United States and India.
Finally, Biden emphasized the promotion of democracy and human rights.
This means that South Asian countries may be targeted by Washington. For strategic reasons, Biden may be relatively cautious when taking action against India, but Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka may find them frequently criticized by the United States.
In short, South Asian policy will rarely maintain continuity during Biden’s term.
But the huge changes brought to U.S. foreign policy by the incoming Biden administration will still affect its strategy for South Asia, bringing new opportunities and challenges to the region.