November 3 is here. This day will decide who is going to win in the US Presidential election- the incumbent Donald Trump who has a unique style of own in which he believes as do many populist leaders across the continents , and Democratic Party challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The US presidential election and its outcome often define the course of the world history. There is absolutely no doubt that America, the most powerful country in the world, can sway things at the global level, negatively and positively, both.
Trump drives things the way he likes, giving a damn to what others say. Perhaps, he is the first President in the recent years who changed his National Security Advisor three times, and no one knows what will happen to the present one, if he is re-elected. In 2016, his slogan was “ Make America Great’, and now in 2020, he added “again” to the original swan song. The potential of “Again” is not known nor it can be determined. He, as President, can dismiss Corona virus as a mere flu, but he can get away with it unmasked because he has put the economy back on the recovery path.
In this part of the world, we have greater interest in the US polls this time. Kamala Harris is the running mate of Joe Biden, and there has been some commentary that she is the real contestant, given the age and other unpalatable factors about the health of Joe Biden.
South Asia has interest in her because of her ancestry. She was born to Indian mother, who, she disclosed in an interview, was a great influencer while she was growing up. That defines her as “different” in the racism-ridden America. She belongs to a generation that grew up with “American dream.” Whatever be the outcome, the US policy in the region is not going to change.
The reason is China.
Neither the second term of Trump, if he gets it, nor the first for Biden, is going to change their policy toward China. The global analysts have portrayed the current freezing relation between the two economic and military giants as “sleepwalking into the World War III.” That would impact the world politics and diplomacy, but what makes it worrying for the region is that India is seen as a counter-balancing force to China. That had been the American strategy since long, but the Indian leadership, did not play the ball. But, now it is an inescapable situation with China on its borders and Beijing’s all-weather ally Pakistan raising Kashmir issue at all the places and forums.
America has not minced words in reminding India time and again that China is on its borders in Ladakh. It is prodding India to say something more than what it has stated so far about the LAC situation, which worsened following the violent clashes in the forbidding icy heights in Galwan Valley where even high summer is like freezing winter at the height of 14,000 feet plus. India lost 20 soldiers in the clash, and China is yet to say anything about casualties that it suffered. Beijing has evoked a clash of imagination versus cold reality.
Then there is Pakistan. There are very strong reasons for India to be concerned about Pakistan. All doubts about Pakistan’s role in Kashmir were cleared by Pakistan’s federal minister for Science and Technology Fawad Choudhary, who claimed that Pulwama attack of February 14 last year that left 40 CRPF men dead was executed by Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. There is absolutely no need to say anything more on the subject, clarifications are always afterthought.
It assumes significance in the US election–Pulwama specifically may not form the narrative in Washington, but it presents a bigger picture about Pakistan and the way it deals with its neighbours. However, Imran Khan is keen on having an “even-handed treatment from the US for Pakistan and India”.
Imran Khan in his interview with German magazine Der Spiegel , made this plea. Dawn, while reporting the excerpts of the interview, said, Imran warned that the “ region was a hotspot” and could flare up at any time.”
“That’s why we expect the US, as the strongest country in the world, to be even-handed, whoever becomes President,” and went on to say that the “US thinks India will contain China, which is a completely flawed premise.”
Imran Khan is entitled to his views, but a reality check on the ground will bring his minister’s claim about the Pulwama attack something that will undermine his country’s position in the eyes of the world that sees terrorism as scourge. Any country exporting violence would not be appreciated in the civilised world.
Pakistan’s relations with its western neighbour Afghanistan are far from normal. The violence is continuing in Afghanistan at a terrible scale and Pakistan cannot deny its role in raising and supporting Taliban. Gen. Pervez Musharraf had tried to use the reverse gear in his famous speech on September 19, 2001- eight days after 9/11- but what happened thereafter, in so many interviews from abroad, he made it plain that Pakistan had set up Taliban for the “ strategic depth in Afghanistan.” Taliban is responsible for most of the violence in Afghanistan.
Imran can choose his words to endear himself to the US administration after November 3, but the truth is known. He wants to have best of both the worlds – good terms with the US and also draw economic benefits from China. He should better recall what all his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said about China’s standoff with India in Ladakh .
Diplomacy permits sweeping words under the carpet for a while, but these cannot be erased. The digital era records are permanent. And, Pakistan’s definition of the region being hotspot is related to Kashmir only. Against this backdrop, expecting even-handed treatment from the US vis-à-vis India is a long shot for Pakistan. However, it is hard to predict which way the US will look after November 3, but certain straws are already there in the wind. Whole of the region would have to be watchful.