Biden Administration’s forthcoming Budget and Pakistan

 

US President Joe Biden’s first budget proposal plans a vision of more spending than any previous federal government with increased disbursements in areas like infrastructure, education and climate change. The $6 trillion budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year was released last month, which delivers a comprehensive accounting of President Biden’s economic agenda. It comprises of two proposals that Biden has presented before Congress. First one is the American Jobs Plan, which is regarding new spending on the nation’s infrastructure while second one is the American Families Plan, which is focusing on the problems like childcare, paid family and universal prekindergarten as well as medical leave. The recent budget develops on a proposal that Joe Biden unveiled in April covering flexible spending, which outlined his wish to distribute funds across domestic agencies; which is indeed a loud reversal from the spending policies of Donald Trump.

While having a look of the budget proposal the segregation and distribution of funding depicts the policies of the incumbent government. 10 billion dollars have been allocated for global health programs, which includes 1 billion dollars for global health security.  $10 billion for humanitarian assistance, $2.5 billion for international climate programs, including $1.2 billion for the Green Climate Fund and $485 million for other multilateral initiatives, some of which will emphasis on adaptation. $861 million to address the root causes of migration in Central America, part of a $4 billion four-year commitment. $3.3 billion for Treasury Department international programs, here a 73% surge and a sign of support for increased multilateral engagement and funding.

Nearly $2 billion for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, including $300 million to begin paying arrears. There are also some policy priorities mentioned in the budget, though there is no specific amount or funding for them. These priorities include funding for World Health Organization, U.N. Population Fund, and the UN Refugee Agency. It also includes funding for Increasing the size and diversity of the State Department and USAID Foreign Service. Founding foe Countering authoritarianism and supporting human rights and democratic values as well as Funding for Middle East partners, including the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Here it is pertinent to mention that Biden has stressed the worth of reinstating United States’ diplomacy and coalitions. For this very purpose, Biden administration proposed a surge of $6.3 billion for the State Department and international programs. This increase is more than 11 % high than the current levels and nearly 50 percent more than the previous budget suggested by Donald Trump, who repeatedly targeted the State Department for cuts. Prioritizing the menace of the covid 19, the whole $63.6 billion request includes $1 billion in foreign aid to fight the spread of Covid-19, encourage global health security programs and intensification of research to identify and stop future viral eruptions.

Programs supportive for refugees and war victims would grow too: The budget requests for $10 billion in humanitarian assistance for external vulnerable people. It would offer $861 million in support to Central American nations to help address the root causes of migration from those countries to America’s southern border. In reply to rising cybersecurity intimidations and breaches, the budget asks for $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and $750 million to reply to lessons learned from the Solar Winds incident.

Most importantly, Biden administration also seeks money for provision of economic and social support to Pakistan and for training Pakistani military personnel. The inclusive defence budget request of $715 billion specifies a waning of about 3pc in actual terms from the present year as Afghanistan, Iraq drawdowns cut $3.2bn from the US Army expenses. Therefore, the budget still requests for $3.3bn as operational funding to sustain the Afghanistan Security Forces, which is a 9.2pc expansion from 2021. On the other hand, US State Department’s budget proposals for foreign operations and connected programmes also contain requests for Pakistan.

The budget proposal sent to Congress by the department stated “Funding for Pakistan will support strengthened democratic governance, particularly near the Afghan border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; address the drivers of violent extremism and support stability in Afghanistan and expand economic growth, including by bilateral trade and investment where possible”. It further mentioned that the Funds for these programmes would come from the $324.5 million the department is seeking for South and Central Asia. The core US security objectives for the requested funds across South Asia revolves around the idea of supporting peace and firmness in the region, coping  the challenges of climate change, supporting the financial recovery from Covid-19, and stimulating US coalitions and cooperation’s.

According to the proposal documents, State Department informed Congress stating, “Regional activities for South Asia will strengthen transparent governance and civil society participation, promote private sector growth, support energy generation, and expand trade, including across the Afghanistan and Pakistan border”. Therefore, state department is also seeking $13.8m for its International Military Education and Training (IMET) programmes in South and Central Asia, which  mainly focusing to support US priorities for the region, by concentrating on  giving comprehensive professional trainings to the defence forces of regional associates, highlighting professional military training. The Important beneficiaries of this financial support include Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal.  However, IMET is a small budget programme but it will enhance harmonization between US Armed Forces and those of friendly nations.

Previously, Pakistan was excluded from this programme by Washington but in January 2020, Trump administration restarted the training facility once again. The announcement added, “To strengthen military to military cooperation on shared priorities and advance US national security, the President of the United States authorised the resumption of IMET for Pakistan. The overall security assistance suspension for Pakistan remains in effect”. Here it is pertinent to mention that in 2018, the IMET programme was suspended amid an agreement signed between Pakistan and Russia to permit Pakistani military officers to obtain training from Russian military institutions.

In the same year, most of the security aid, delivery of military equipment and security-related funds for Pakistan were also suspended by US.  However, in July 2019 after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first official visit to Washington; the US sanctioned $125m to deliver Pakistan with technical support for its fleet of F-16 aircraft.   In current announcements, lawmakers and US officials have once again displayed interest in stimulating their relations with Pakistan. They are also looking for ground and air access to Afghanistan from Pakistan after the removal of their troops by Sept 11, 2021. On this particular point recently, PM Imran Khan in an interview categorically said that

“There’s no way we’re going to allow any bases or any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not.” How things will move further for this one has to wait and see.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a budget hearing that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was somewhat in advance of the given schedule. “I can report to you today that the retrograde is proceeding on pace, indeed slightly ahead of it,” he told the session. However, He did not offer additional detail on the matter, but the Pentagon issued a statement mentioning that the drawdown was “somewhere between 16 to 25pc complete”. They also revealed that the United States would remain to have an existence in the Central Command area of responsibility, which includes Pakistan. The US will also keep on having diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.

Many representatives in the Biden Administration have stressed that Pakistan is important part of US foreign policy, particularly in the background of attaining the success concerning withdrawal the US troops from Afghanistan. On 16 May 2021, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, held a discussion with US National Security Advisor, Anthony Blinken. During the discussion, foreign minister spoke about the necessity for a ‘broad-based’ connection with the US. He also highlighted that Pakistan was profound to emphasis on ‘geo-economics’ and encourage better regional collaboration. He also added that Army Chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, and Prime Minister Imran Khan, both are in favour of closer economic integration within the South Asia region. The discussion also included Afghanistan issue and its regional implications.

The US State Department, while giving comments on the conversation between representatives from both countries stated that during the discussion, significance of constant co-operation on the Afghan peace development, Pakistan’s advancement on countering terrorism, and the impending to increase trade and commercial ties and to advance regional connectivity in South Asia were few of the important aspects.

The references to improved relations within South Asia and better connectivity clearly hinted at conveying the point that Pakistan is prepared to improve ties with all the neighbouring countries including India. It is also because US influences India to discuss numerous issues with Pakistan. South Asia’s geopolitical landscape has observed a noteworthy modification over the past two decades, though the variations have been more distinct in the last one. Hopefully, both countries will comprehend the significance of a harmonious relations to further have some positive outcomes while reassuring vigorous economic connections and collaboration.

 

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About Saima Zaman 30 Articles
Writer is the Assistant Editor ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’, ‘The Asian Telegraph’ & Project Coordinator (COPAIR); a degree holder in communication & media sciences.