By Dr. Talat Shabbir and Abdul Wasay Ajmal
U.S President Joseph Biden Jr inherits the US from his predecessor that faces major challenges from all fronts. These include a raging pandemic, an economic recession, racial inequality, and domestic terrorism. The current administration also faces immense challenges on the foreign policy front as well, where issues such as climate change, rising global power China, a resurgent Russia, and an Iranian regime that is adamant on attaining a nuclear capability.
In his inaugural address, President Biden promised to tackle the immediate crisis gripping the country, the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and to re-establish America’s credibility as the global leader leading the charge against all international issues. President Biden has had a long distinguished career as a politician holding important public posts throughout his service. As a Democrat and Vice-President in the Obama administration, he has established his credibility as a mature statesman handling all major crises through pragmatic policies aimed at enhancing American interests.
South Asia has historically been of great significance for the US states. The region’s strategic value is not lost on President Biden who shall aim to enhance bilateral ties with major players in the region. Currently, the United States faces a multitude of challenges in the region with the Afghanistan peace process still underway and a rising China which aims to assert its economic and military dominance in the region and beyond. American Foreign policy aims to ensure a peaceful withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan followed by a ‘containment’ strategy with China. For the Biden administration, it is vital that it establishes relations with important strategic partners, Pakistan and India in order to further its goals. In order to achieve these foreign policy objectives, the administration shall face economic, political, and strategic challenges. These highlighted, shall be discussed in the ensuing paragraphs.
The United States economy has been dealt a severe blow due to the coronavirus pandemic. The on-going onslaught has resulted in mass-scale unemployment were according to the Congressional Budget Office, unemployment is of April 2020 at 14.7%. Real GDP is forecasted to fall at a 38% annual rate with small scale business going out and major businesses filing for bankruptcy.
The Biden Administration has promised to start a major relief package in order to aid the middle class which has suffered the most during the pandemic. In order for the Administration to revive its ailing economy, it is vital that it strengthens its trading partnership with the European community and with major trading blocs such as the EU. Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had adopted a more ‘isolationist approach’ thereby damaging not only diplomatic but economic relations as well. It shall be important for Joe Biden as President to re-establish economic ties with major trading partners.
The United States’ political objectives in South Asia are pursuing a pro-American peace deal in Afghanistan through a peaceful withdrawal of troops and to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Throughout the globe, the pandemic has affected the normal life of almost every person. Rising COVID deaths having forced governments to order complete or partial lockdown in order to curb COVID deaths leading to a major economic downturn. China, from which the pandemic originated, has become a model example of effectively managing and curbing the spread of the virus and restarting its economic growth despite a similar slump faced by other states.
China is the United States’ 3rd largest trading partner with 558 billion dollars (two way) trade. The United States and China’s recent rifts in trade deals and partnerships dubbed “The US-China trade war” has affected the economic growth of both countries especially the US. Apart from diplomatic spats and an increase in tariffs, China’s rising stature in the region continues to pose a threat to US dominance. President Biden would want to adopt a more diplomatic approach and resume most of the trade relations with China in order to supplement an economy in recession.
The United States’ political objectives in South Asia are pursuing a pro-American peace deal in Afghanistan through a peaceful withdrawal of troops and to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The Afghan peace process has been hailed as a monumental aimed at bringing stability and a “people’s government” to Afghanistan. Afghanistan for a greater part of its history has been ravaged by war and till today is a target of a vicious attack by the Taliban. The Afghan peace deal signed in Doha by all major stakeholders aims to successfully withdraw American and allied NATO troops from the country. This would then allow a transfer of power to the people of the country enabling them to decide the government of their choice. In order for the US to fulfill its obligation of a unilateral withdrawal, it shall be vital for the Biden administration to see aid from Pakistan. Newly appointed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has highlighted the strategic importance of Pakistan and hopes to resolve the Afghan process with the aid of Pakistan.
The United Foreign policy aims to utilize India’s economic potential and labour market as a strategic counterweight to China. In doing so, they aim to provide a competitor to China in hopes of slowing their rise as a global power.
China’s meteoric economic rise even after a pandemic that has adversely affected countries’ economies presents the greatest challenge to the United States in the region. Many scholars in the United States have regarded China as the primary adversary in the region. US-China trade war continues to be the primary contestation between the two countries. China’s continued presence in the Indo-Pacific followed by multiple incursions in the Ladakh region of Indian Occupied Kashmir is a major cause of concern for the US. The United Foreign policy aims to utilize India’s economic potential and labour market as a strategic counterweight to China. In doing so, they aim to provide a competitor to China in hopes of slowing their rise as a global power. It can be argued effectively therefore that under the Biden administration, it would be prudent to adopt a similar diplomatic posture and try to contain China through India and alliances such as the Quad.
President Biden faces the monumental task of leading the United States which is facing many internal and external challenges
South Asia is of great strategic importance to the United States. The Indo-Pacific region and its control has always been of great strategic value to the US. China under Xi Jingping continues to exert its influence in the region adopting a more aggressive approach in order to attain its objectives.
The current standoff in the Ladakh region where according to India Chinese military personnel have occupied parts of the region showcases how China under Xi wishes to pursue its objectives. What can be termed as a response to the rise of a regional and global competitor the United States started alliances such as Quad, an alliance between 4 countries namely Australia, Japan the United States and India. This and also an aggressive naval presence in Indo-Pacific can be analysed through this perspective. President Biden faces the daunting challenge of ensuring that American interests are maintained in the region and China’s growing influence be contained. Keeping this in mind, India’s strategic value in the Biden administration shall be high value and the US would utilize India as an effective counterweight to China.
President Biden faces the monumental task of leading the United States which is facing many internal and external challenges. With rising COVID cases, an economy in recession and political divisiveness threatens to tear the social fabric of the nation. President Biden shall have to adopt bold and aggressive policies in order to tackle issues such as climate change, COVID-19 domestic and International terrorism. South Asia under the Biden administration will hold great importance. Under Biden, it is expected that approaches to policies shall be more mature and pragmatic thus allowing the US to gain its tarnished credibility as a world leader. The South Asian region holds many challenges for the current administration and only time will truly tell how the new President of the United States deals with the challenges that one of the most important regions in the world poses for his administration.
Dr. Talat Shabbir is Director China-Pakistan Study Centre, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad while Abdul Wasay Ajmal works at China-Pakistan Study Centre, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.