As India and Pakistan recently decided to cease-fire along the contentious Line of Control, there are tell-tale signs of Pakistan feeling the heat under the Biden administration.
The out-of-the-blue decision to scale down hostilities at the de facto border with India indicates Islamabad can no longer afford to maintain its belligerent posture as the US could be tightening the noose around the country.
Here’s an analysis of three reasons why India will bask in glory under the Biden administration while Pakistan will feel left out.
1. US-India Partnership
The India-US partnership that has seen an upswing since the Trump presidency is likely to get a further boost with Joe Biden attaching utmost importance to Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. For instance, the Indo-Pacific directorate will be the largest contingent in Biden’s National Security Council, comprising experts and analysts who are known for their tough stance on China.
The US’ leading role in the QUAD bloc (US, Japan, Australia, and India) could be a new headache for China. The Washington-led grouping will closely monitor Chinese activity or aggression in the Asia-Pacific region.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 8, 2021
And if China comes under scrutiny, its ‘iron brother’ Pakistan will definitely feel the heat. Needless to say, Islamabad is very much dependent on China as far as defense and security are concerned. Besides the ‘enemy’s enemy is a friend’ logic, Pakistan has been looking up to China as its big brother who can stand by its side in the hours of need.
However, times are changing and Pakistan has been afflicted with so many problems that even China may not be able to rescue it.
And with the US tightening the noose around China, Pakistan may have to rethink its priorities, especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which the two countries have been hailing as the harbinger of prosperity.
It is clear, the CPEC project has made Pakistan a victim of the Chinese debt-trap policy. No wonder, some analysts have called it “a trillion-dollar blunder”, based on a bogus assumption that a nation needs these massive economic projects to be flourishing.
According to an analysis published in The Jerusalem Post, the debt outcome of the CPEC project is about $80 billion, 90% of which will be paid for by Pakistan in the form of the national debt. This is a massive burden on Pakistan’s already-crumbling economy, which could eventually force Islamabad to mortgage the sovereignty of its land.
2. India – An Economic Superpower
On the economic front, India is going to steal the show while Pakistan will be left to fend for itself. With a GDP of $2.6 trillion, New Delhi automatically figures prominently in the US policy framework.
India has forging trade and business ties with several countries. The ‘Make-in-India’ initiative, especially in some segments, has started showing results. India’s success story in the pharmaceutical sector, especially its supply of affordable medicines to developing nations has earned it the title of the ‘Pharmacy of the World’.
The country also flaunts its status as the largest manufacturer of the Covid-19 vaccine.
In contrast, Pakistan’s economy is gasping for breath. The long list of negative factors including corruption, money-laundering, political instability among others, has ensured that few foreign countries are interested in investing in Pakistan.
If that were not enough, Pakistan will continue to figure in the FATF ‘grey list’ until June this year. The Paris-headquartered global watchdog is not happy with Pakistan’s performance in tackling money-laundering and terror financing. There are indications that if things remain unchanged, Pakistan could even be blacklisted by FATF.
Successful meeting with Quad counterparts from Japan, Australia, and India in Tokyo. Thanks to Foreign Minister @moteging for his leadership in facilitating our productive discussion. The Quad shares a vision for peace, security, and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific. pic.twitter.com/b8iJm4BcJv
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 6, 2020
There is a reason to believe that countries like the US and France have apprised FATF about Pakistan’s continued support to non-state actors, some of whom are UN-designated terrorists. The recent acquittal of the Daniel Pearl murder accused by Pakistan’s Supreme Court seems could be one of the reasons behind FATF’s hardening of stand against Islamabad. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and beheaded by Pakistani terrorists in 2002.
3. India’s Growing Clout
India’s growing clout in the global arena and its deft diplomacy have fetched it a membership position in the United Nations Security Council. India will chair three key committees in UNSC in the year 2021-22 – Taliban Sanctions Committee, Counterterrorism Committee and Libya Sanctions Committee.
There is a reason for Pakistan to get worried since it will come under the purview of two of these committees. With India chairing these panels, Islamabad is in for more trouble.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is trying its best to mend ties with ‘old friend’ Saudi Arabia which had hit a low last year. Under pressure, Islamabad had in December returned $1 billion to Riyadh as the second installment of a $3 billion soft loan.
It has apparently turned to China seeking a commercial loan of $1 billion to repay the remaining installment to Saudi Arabia.
The FATF recognises progress made by Pakistan but is concerned about the failure to complete its action plan to reduce money laundering and terrorist financing risks. The #FATF strongly urges #Pakistan to complete its action plan. ➡️https://t.co/ucVnC2EbQW #FATFweek
— FATF (@FATFNews) February 21, 2020
Pakistan’s precarious economic condition seems to be a prime factor behind its fast-changing diplomatic stance. It can be a friend one day and the foe next day or vice-versa. For instance, after reaching the ceasefire agreement with India, Pakistan is reportedly mulling the restoration of cotton imports from the neighboring country. Pakistan’s textile industry is badly hit due to a shortfall of cotton.
Having said this, it is unlikely that the Biden administration will offer any economic and military aid to Pakistan. As Javid Hussain, a retired Pakistani diplomat writes in Dawn, “It would be unrealistic to expect that under Biden, the US would resume large-scale economic and military assistance to Pakistan or would be helpful in the search for a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.”
Well, if Kashmir needs to be discussed then it has to be between India and Pakistan. But for this to happen, Pakistan has to meet several criteria, the first and foremost being the cutting off all ties with ‘non-state actors’ aka terror elements. Whether Pakistan has the will and power to do so, only time will tell.