‘Internal review’ delays Biden-Imran contact

New US president first wants to understand where Pakistan-US ties stand at moment

Kamran Yousaf May 31, 2021


When Donald Trump was elected as the US President in 2016, he didn't even wait to take the formal oath for telephoning then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

It was a telephone call that got the international media's attention since Trump, as per Pakistan’s official readout, declared Nawaz “a terrific guy”.

This was, nevertheless, not a surprise since Pakistani leaders were on the priority list of the newly elected US presidents in the post 9/11 scenario given the country's critical role in the Afghan affairs.

Read: Pak, US NSAs meet in Geneva for crucial talks

However, President Joe Biden didn't follow that ritual and has not yet spoken to Prime Minister Imran Khan despite being in the White House since January 20.

There is no official explanation from either side as to what stops Biden from speaking to Imran, although his administration officials have been in touch both with the civil and military authorities in Pakistan.

The Express Tribune has learnt through reliable sources that Biden has ordered an "internal review" on Pakistan and hence is waiting for the outcome of that review before picking up the phone and speaking to Prime Minister Imran.

The reason why Biden ordered a review is that he thinks that he may have a "biased" approach given that he has worked with Islamabad as vice president as well as head of the foreign relations committee.

Biden was the original co-author of the Kerry-Lugar Act that tripled non-military aid to Pakistan during President Obama's first term. He frequently travelled to Islamabad for this purpose.

Sources said President Biden was seeking fresh input from the relevant US department to understand where Pakistan-US ties stand at the moment and what the way forward is.

"Once President Biden has the institutional input he would then reach out to Prime Minister Imran Khan," a source familiar with the development said.

Pakistan has been seeking a paradigm shift in its ties with the US. Unlike the past, Islamabad wants relationships to be based on economy and trade rather than solely focusing on security and Afghanistan.

Read more: Qureshi meets US lawmakers, discusses bilateral relations

At a recent meeting in Geneva, newly appointed National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf presented a "blueprint" to his US counterpart Jake Sullivan.

The blueprint envisages Pakistan's priorities for future cooperation with the US. Washington on the other hand wants Islamabad to first play its role in the Afghan endgame.

It is believed that the US-Pakistan bilateral cooperation would depend on how the Afghanistan situation unfolds in the coming months. It is said that the US first wants Pakistan to deliver on the Afghanistan front before offering any cooperation in other areas.

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