Biden says Pak is one of most dangerous nations

Published on Oct 15, 2022 11:16 PM IST

Biden made the remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception in Los Angeles in California on Thursday, even as he was making a pitch for his party ahead of the midterm elections scheduled for November

President Joe Biden on Friday. (AFP)
President Joe Biden on Friday. (AFP)
By, Washington

United States President Joe Biden has said he believes Pakistan may be “one of the most dangerous nations” in the world, possessing “nuclear weapons without cohesion”.

Pakistan said it was “surprised” by the comments and summoned the US ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad to register its concern. Biden’s comment has become an issue within Pakistan’s domestic politics, with former prime minister Imran Khan using it to attack the government.

Biden made the remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception in Los Angeles in California on Thursday, even as he was making a pitch for his party ahead of the midterm elections scheduled for November.

Biden first laid out context of an uncertain and dangerous geopolitical climate created as a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, linked it with China, and then brought in Pakistan.

The President said there was a lot at stake and only the US could lead the world. He referred to a New York Times article which was headlined about how Biden declared that the post-Cold War period was over (a reference to a statement in the recently released US national security strategy). Biden acknowledged it was a different world out there now, slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat, and then referred to China.

“Did anybody think we would be in a situation where China is trying to figure out its role relative to Russia and relative to India and relative to Pakistan?” Biden said — a claim he has also made repeatedly in the past — that among world leaders, he has spent the most time with China’s president, Xi Jinping — “78 hours” — and travelled 17,000km with him.

It was in this backdrop that Biden brought in Pakistan, potentially alluding to a China-Pakistan link that India has consistently warned about.

About Xi, Biden said: “This is a guy who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems. How do we handle that? How do we handle that relative to what’s going on in Russia? And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”

Biden’s comments on Pakistan come days after the Pentagon hosted Pakistan Amy chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa and the State Department hosted Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Washington DC. It also comes in the backdrop of the US announcing a $450 million dollar F-16 sustainment package for Pakistan.

But while Washington has made what many experts see as a tactical readjustment vis a vis Islamabad and Rawalpindi, there is a deep trust deficit due to Pakistan’s actions in Afghanistan. Biden refused to meet or speak to Imran Khan through all of Khan’s tenure, and has only had one brief encounter with current PM Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Commenting on Biden’s remarks, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US and a distinguished scholar on the region who is now at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, told HT: “President Biden’s comment reflects his deeply held view of Pakistan. It is the reason Pakistan, which was mentioned 19 times in the Obama administration’s strategy document in 2010, was not mentioned even once in the new US National Security Strategy.”

He added that the State Department, Pentagon, and the Central Intelligence Agency wanted to engage with Pakistan “for pragmatic reasons, as they should”. “ But the US political leadership’s negative view of Pakistan will remain an impediment to closer ties.”

Pakistan has expressed its unhappiness at the remarks, with FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari saying at a press conference: “As far as the question of safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets is concerned, we meet all — each and every — international standard in accordance with the IAEA.”

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has adopted a stridently anti-American political platform and accused Washington DC of engineering his ouster from power, said that he would like to know on what basis Biden had arrived at this conclusion on Pakistan’s nuclear capability. Claiming that as a former PM, he knew that Pakistan had one of the “most secure nuclear command and control systems”, Khan alleged that the statement showed the “total failure” of the “imported government” — his term for the Sharif government — and its claims of a “reset of relations with US”. “This government has broken all records for incompetence”.

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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