Joe Biden’s 'off the cuff' remarks do not suggest change in policy towards Pakistan: US senator

US Senator says US State Department’s explanation of statement indicates that remarks were not made on purpose

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US Democrat Senator Chris Van Hollen.
US Democrat Senator Chris Van Hollen.

  • US Senator says State Department explanation indicates remarks were not made on purpose.
  • Says there is no change in the US policy towards Pakistan. 
  • Imran Khan mistaken about US conspiracy, he says.

WASHINGTON: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Van Hollen believes that President Joe Biden’s “off the cuff” remarks on Pakistan do not suggest that Washington’s policy towards Islamabad has changed.

“President Biden's remarks were off the cuff [there is] no change in American policy,” said the Democratic party senator. He added that the US State Department’s explanation of the statement indicated that the presidential remarks were not made on purpose.

Hollen said that the Joe Biden-led US administration wants stronger Pakistan-US relations.

“We want integrated and stable relations with Pakistan,” assured the senator. He also added that bilateral contact between Washington and Islamabad had increased following the catastrophic floods.

The US lawmaker also shared that they had spoken to the American ambassador to Pakistan on the floods, saying that Washington was at the forefront of emergency aid given to Pakistan.

“The US is in constant contact with the Pakistani authorities on how to provide further assistance,” said the senator.

To a question about PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s claim that a US conspiracy toppled him, the senator said that allegations of American intervention in bringing down the PTI government was false.

The senator said that making claims in the election was something else, but there was no truth to such accusations.

Pakistan most dangerous country: Biden

Remarks from the US senator come days after the US President alleged that Pakistan's nuclear programme lacks cohesion. 

Biden referred to Pakistan as "one of the most dangerous countries" and alleged that Islamabad's nuclear programme lacks cohesion.

"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?" President Biden said, addressing the democratic congressional campaign committee reception on Saturday [October 15].

Referring to Chinese President Jinping, Biden said that he "understands what he wants but has an 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," the US president said, adding that despite a lot going on, the US has a hunk of opportunities to change the dynamic in the second quarter of the 21st century.

Pakistani reaction

The Pakistani authorities held consultations before issuing a detailed official response. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari strongly protested against Biden's controversial remarks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) handed a "strong" demarche to US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome over President Biden's "misleading" remarks regarding Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Acting Foreign Secretary Jauhar Saleem called in the US ambassador to deliver the demarche, the ministry said. Pakistan’s disappointment and concern were conveyed to the US envoy on the unwarranted remarks, it said.

The US president's remarks are not grounded in reality and facts, the ministry said.

The secretary made it clear that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and its impeccable stewardship of the nuclear programme and adherence to global standards and international best practices was well acknowledged, including by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"It was essential to maintain the positive trajectory of Pakistan-US relations and the close cooperation between the two sides to build regional and global peace," the ministry added.