Joe Biden’s presidency has come at the time when Central Asian countries are opening up through political and economic reforms, and will largely focus on Afghanistan, China, governance, rule of law and human rights. Unlike Trump, Biden has been vocal on the issue of the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province. He has criticised China on the issue and has stressed that human rights must be a core component of the US’s engagement with China. However, unlike his predecessor, Biden will have to craft a vision for the US’s Central Asian policy. He will also have to gain the confidence of the leaders of the Central Asian Republics by criticising the internment of their ethnic brethren by China.
Though Trump’s policy lacked vision in the “heart of Asia”, in February 2020, he tried to checkmate China through the US’s renewed strategy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Central Asia to participate in a C5+1 High Level Dialogue. The strategy that came out of it, which supports advancing sovereignty, economic prosperity, human rights and rule of law will remain in force till 2025. Pompeo tried to use the Uighur card and even asked leaders of the Central Asian countries to “beware of China”. However, the Trump administration failed to look at the Central Asian Republics beyond the angle of “grievance states” and also largely failed to recognise the multiple roles the region can play for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and as a conduit for the US to exert pressure on China.
Under Biden, the US is likely to re-join the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. It will open new vistas for like-minded countries to start a multilateral diplomacy in the region. New Delhi can play a vital role in such multilateral diplomacy not only to counter Beijing, but also to help in establishing stability by countering radical extremism, illicit drug trafficking, misinformation and crossborder terrorism in the region.
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Ayjaz Wani (Phd) is a Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme at ORF. Based out of Mumbai, he tracks China’s relations with Central Asia, Pakistan and ...Read More +