Does Obama’s choice of Biden spell hope for Pakistan?

August 23, 2008

File photo of Senators Obama and Biden/John GressDemocrat Senator Joseph Biden, chosen by Barack Obama as his running mate, said famously early on that America needed to have a Pakistan policy, not a Musharraf policy.

“There’s a vast majority, a significant middle of the population of Pakistan (that) is democratic and middle-class. But what’s happening is, absent free elections, you’re forcing them underground, radicalizing them, and you’re giving great sway to that portion of the population that’s already radicalized,” he was quoted as saying.

In a post of his own on The Huffington Post last November, Biden condemned the imposition of emergency rule by then President Pervez Mushrraf and described Pakistan as  ”probably the most dangerous and complex country we deal with”.

With Musharraf gone this week and a fractious but democratically elected civilian government in place in Islamabad, Biden may now get a chance to shape the next administration’s Pakistan policy. The chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee clearly brings the foreign policy expertise which would be needed by a future Obama administration in its relations with Pakistan.

File photo of Senators Biden, Kerry and Hegel with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Rawalpindi/Zahid Hussein“Arguably, the most dangerous waters to be waded through internationally in the next few years will be the tribal areas of Pakistan and its border with Afghanistan. There is probably no one in the Senate who knows more about these issues than Biden,” the blog sepiamutiny wrote.

An Obama-Biden ticket would bring together two individuals with a strong track record of supporting democracy and development in Pakistan, The Pakistan Policy Blog said, adding that both have consistently argued that Pakistan’s democratization and cooperation in the tackling al Qaeda and the Taliban are interconnected.

It also means that the vice president’s office will play an active role, if not dominant role in shaping U.S. policy on Pakistan. A bill that Biden has authored on tripling non-military assistance to Pakistan will likely get momentum and could be an early foreign policy success for a young administration.

In short, a positive sign in the gloom that pervades the region at this time?

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