Joe Biden says Trump is ‘first’ racist US presidentJoe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America on January 20th, becoming the oldest person ever sworn in to occupy the White House. The 78 year old democrat was sworn in at the Capitol Hill, as Washington remained on the edge with Central Washington being turned into an armed fortress, fenced off with razor wire and surrounded by 25,000 National Guard troops- a stark contrast to previous inaugurations, when the US capital used to erupt in days of celebration. While, the entire world welcomed a sane mind in the oval office, Asian foes; Pakistan and India also braced for the new president in the US, as both countries are at loggerheads over series of crisis-level issues i.e illegal occupation of Kashmir by India and Afghanistan political settlement, and both the countries would be looking to gain the new president’s confidence and nod to achieve ascendancy in these matters. Impressing upon Islamabad’s whims, the Biden administration has already begun to give hints for its support to Pakistan on Afghan issue, as nominated defence chief, General Lloyd J Austin was quoted as saying at the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, that the new administration see Pakistan as an “essential partner” in any peace process in Afghanistan and believes that “continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues,” J Austin also noted that his overarching objective- If confirmed, he will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbors like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process. The defence nominee emphasized that “Pakistan will play an important role in any political settlement in Afghanistan,”, and continued that “We also need to work with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and to enhance regional stability.” The new US administration’s will to elevate Pakistan’s position in Afghanistan’s political settlement is a clear indication of the beginning of new start between Washington and Islamabad, and acknowledgement of Islamabad’s role in the entire Afghan peace process. J Austin’s policy statement also reflects Biden’s long standing view of Pakistan being the most important ally. “In 2008-shortly after Barack Obama was elected president, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden traveled to Kabul to meet with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president. As recounted in “Directorate S,” a book on the Afghan war by the journalist Steve Coll, Afghan president Hamid Karzai asked for help from the new administration in getting the Pakistani government to clear out Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. But Coll recounts, that responding to Karzai, Biden said, “Mr. President, Pakistan is 50 times more important than Afghanistan for the United States.” The newly unveiled Biden administration’s position on Pakistan not only makes Islamabad’s case easier, but since Islamabad played a key role in brokering the landmark US-Taliban peace deal in February 29th in 2020, setting in motion a “conditions-based” withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, dealing with Biden on the future course of Afghanistan issue, will be a lot more viable in contrast to recalcitrant and belligerent Trump. Meanwhile, during the senate hearing, the nominated defence chief also illustrated on the new administration’s focus to elevate defence relations with pakistan and was quoted saying that “I will focus on our shared interests which include training future Pakistan military leaders through the use of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds. Pakistan will play an important role in any political settlement in Afghanistan. We also need to work with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and to enhance regional stability,” when asked what changes he would recommend to US relations with Pakistan as the new defence chief. When asked if he has perceived any change in Pakistan’s cooperation with the US since the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to withhold security assistance, Gen Austin said: “I understand Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad, although this progress is incomplete.” The general also acknowledged that “many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack.” He emphasised “Pakistan is a sovereign country,” when asked what tools and options the US had to influence Pakistan. Administered by the US Stated Department, the IMET is a small facet of US security aid programmes worth around $2 billion. The programme was abruptly suspended by Trump in January 2018 in a bid to compel Islamabad to launch a crackdown against militants, which prompted cancellation of 66 slots set aside for Pakistani military officers at the IMET programme in August 2018. In December 2019, however, Trump administration approved resumption of the military training and education programme. On January 4, 2020, the US president signed off on the decision to “strengthen military-to-military cooperation between US and Pakistan on shared priorities and advance US national security”. The Biden administration’s new policy of engagement and elevation of military ties highlights Pakistan’s importance in the eye of the new president, which will mark a possible end to decades of Washington’s policy of hostility and threats- which has been a reflection of Bismarck’s maxim that “Gratitude and confidence will not bring a single man into the field on our side; only fear will do that, if we use it cautiously and skillfully”. However, it is yet to be seen whether Washington edges closer to Pakistan in principle, since despite being a long term ally against War on terror in Afghanistan, India nestles much more closely with Washington, and with the newly sworn in Vice president Kamala Harris being an Indian American, the future is yet to be written.